Promise for new look into bus demand
First a hint of stick, then the carrot.
On Tuesday, the state government had threatened to requisition private buses if they did not hit the roads within 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the government assured operators of private buses, who want a fare hike to offset losses resulting from lack of enough passengers and steep hike in the diesel price, that their demands would be looked into afresh.
Operators said the assurance placated a large number of them and they have promised to bring out their buses by Friday. Many operators expressed the hope that the government would take a fresh look into their demands.
Government sources said officials had come to realise that requisitioning thousands of buses could be a lengthy and an expensive exercise.
Officials, led by transport secretary Prabhat Kumar Mishra, met representatives of bus unions on Wednesday to discuss the operators’ pain-points.
“At the meeting, which lasted over two hours, we explained to the officials why private bus operators could not survive without a fare hike. Their keenness to understand our problems was missing during our previous interactions with the government,” said Tapan Bandyopadhyay, of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.
“We were told that the state government would frequently interact with us from now and our grievances and demands would be conveyed to the right platform at Nabanna for action.”
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on Tuesday said the state government would requisition private buses under the National Disaster Management Act. “This is not the time to bargain but to stand with people. If you don’t abide, we will be forced to (requisition).”
She was speaking four days after the state government had announced a subsidy of Rs 15,000 a month to 6,000 buses each for three months, an offer bus operators have turned down.
“We are not looking for a temporary solution,” said Rahul Chatterjee, of the All Bengal Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity. “We could explain to the officials today that there is no tussle here.”
On Wednesday evening, drivers and conductors of buses on several routes that originate from the Nager-bazar bus stand held a protest clanging steel plates with spoons. They said that since buses have not been running, they have been bereft of livelihood.
Sukanta Bera, a conduc-tor, said they were not being able to send money home and pay school fees for their children. “We are barely managing to gather food,” said Bera.