Daijiworld Media Network – Udupi (MS)
Udupi, Jun 19: It is a month and half since the Covid second wave related lockdown was declared in the state. Most of the businessmen and commoners are looking forward to the second phase of unlocking eagerly to see which sectors will be given permission to start operations.
Public of twin districts are expecting the green signal for private buses to operate. Apart from undivided DK district, Shivamogga and Tumakuru also are dominated by the private bus industry. Private buses have a history of around 106 years. Restricted permission is already given for BMTC rural buses to operate. However, other districts are still waiting for permission to start bus transport.
The buses which are kept in the garage after the second lockdown started have branches of plants growing on them. The roofs of some buses are leaking due to incessant rains. Engines are also stalled and it will be an issue while restarting them. It will cost at least one and half lac rupees to get each bus ready for operation once the unlock process begins and a green signal is given for the buses to start operating.
There are 15,000 private buses operating in Karnataka. In the undivided district of Dakshina Kannada there are 2,800 buses. Members of 11,200 families directly or indirectly depend on these buses for their livelihood. Except the bus owners, who have helped their employees, the state government has not declared any financial package for this sector. The buses which were surrendered to RTO last year during the first lock down are still lying with the department. The second wave lockdown has added more problems to the private bus industry.
Only if the bus fares are increased by 20% it is possible to operate the private buses. Fuel prices are also increasing day by day. There is a possibility that the students’ concession which the private buses are offering will be cancelled.
Competition between private and government buses is always there in the undivided district of DK. The government buses can operate with 50% passenger capacity also. But who will bear the loss that is incurred by private bus owners?
As of now rural areas of Udupi district do not have any government bus transport facility. Only some private bus owners are operating.
Throwing more light on the plight of private bus owners and employees, treasurer of private bus owners’ association Suresh Kuilady said, “Covid guidelines are hampering the operation of private buses in the district. If the 50% seat capacity is followed as per the Covid guidelines, bus owners will suffer huge losses. Diesel has already reached a cost of Rs 96 per litre. So it is not possible to start operating the buses even if the administration gives us permission.
“Already an appeal is made to the concerned department to waive interest on loan for two years and give exemption from paying road and income taxes. Our operations will start once the government responds to our demands. The government buses get grants from the state government. However, private buses do not have that facility. So I request the union government to provide us with a Rs two lac loan without interest for 24 months.
“The appeal sent to the government has main points like exempt the stage carriage bus owners from paying income tax, for the financial year March 2021-March 2023, direct the RBI to issue loan moratorium period up to 24 months and defer the payment of EMI till such date without imposing compound interest, and issue guidelines from the RBI to all the banks in this regard and direct the Karnataka government to exempt road tax for a period of at least one year without any pre conditions and clauses.
“Earlier, we paid royalty from our association. We have also provided bus passes for the convenience of the public. We do not want the state government to reimburse these things to us. But let them waive three months of income tax for us. Bus industry has totally collapsed. The life of countless families, who depend directly or indirectly on this industry is devastated.
“As much as 30% of private buses which were surrendered to the RTO in April 2020 have still not started operating. Another challenge is that nearly 20% of passengers have bought personal vehicles after the lockdown. So the average number of passengers in our buses is reduced considerably,” he said.
RTO G P Gagadhar said, “The RTO will start public service, under Covid guidelines from June 21. Some services can be obtained under e-portal. In the district of Udupi 545 private bus drivers, conductors and staff have got vaccinated from June 11 to 18. They can drive and work on the public transport buses.”
The public wishes that the district administration should show more interest in resolving the issues faced by the private bus operators of the district, which is the lifeline of transport for commoners.