Yet another festival has come and gone but the government has failed to keep its promise of curbing private bus operators from charging exorbitant fares during rush days.
Private buses make hay during long weekends and holidays, when railways and state transport buses cannot keep up to the commuters demands, by charging twice or thrice the fares on popular routes.
In the run-up to Deepavali, private bus fares went up by more than 100% on longer routes, especially those bound to Hubballi, Belagavi, Hyderabad and Mangaluru. Sleeper bus fares to Hubballi went up to Rs 2,200, against the regular fare of Rs 800.
On November 2, 3 and 5, Regional Transport Department officials booked 1517 private bus operators across the state, including 946 in Bengaluru. Officials said the cases were based on a violation of the contract carriage permit conditions. However, the issue of exorbitant fares during the long weekend and festive rush has remained unresolved.
Additional Transport Commissioner C P Narayanaswamy said there were two major violations of the permit, including carrying of parcel luggage and picking up passengers from places between the origin and destination.
“About Rs 15 lakh pending taxes and Rs 1.5 lakh of compounding fee was collected. Additionally, we have seized 17 buses, against whom tax of Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh was pending. Some of these buses did not have a fitness certificate. Fine was also imposed on several buses for various violations,” he said.
Asked whether cases were booked specifically for high fares, Narayanaswamy said action can be taken against such practices only if the government approves such a rule. “We have taken statements from passengers in these buses for clear proof for exorbitant fares. Some were paying Rs 1,600 for a ticket that cost not more than Rs 700 earlier. But we can’t file cases till
the government approves a proposal for fare fixation,” he said.
Sources in the Transport Department said a proposal for fixing minimum and maximum fares for such buses was pending with the government for several months. “Fixing fares will also help bring down other violations. The decision has to be taken at a government level,” the source said.