Amid crowd curb, diesel price, buses in Bengal district refuse to roll out
Most private buses in Bengal districts did not roll out on Thursday as bus owners said they would incur losses if they obey the government’s pandemic-induced norm of running vehicles with half occupancy in the face of steep diesel prices.
Private bus service across the state resumed on Thursday following the state government’s easing of Covid curbs with fewer active Covid cases now since the second wave of the pandemic in Bengal.
But for bus owners in Nadia, Birbhum, Bankura, North and South 24-Parganas worries remained. “Buses are off roads since mid-May. Plying buses now by meeting the government rider will only lead to more losses. So, we decided not to bring out our buses,” said an owner in Birbhum.
“It is simple maths,” said Jamarul Islam, secretary of Birbhum District Bus Owners’ Association.. “A bus needs 3 litres of diesel to cover 1km. A bus that plies between Suri and Rampurhat in Birbhum needs 15 litres at over Rs 92 per litre to cover 48km. According to government rules, we can ferry only 20 passengers and that will earn us Rs 900. How can we run a bus if we earn Rs 900 and spend Rs 1,380?”
Islam’s worry found an echo among bus owners across the state.“When bus services resumed after the first wave, we rolled out our vehicles as then diesel was priced around Rs 70 a litre. But now, it is impossible unless the state government revises fares,” said a bus owner in Bankura.
Most passengers on Thursday boarded small goods vehicles. A senior state transport department official said they had asked officials in districts to convince bus owners to resume the service.