The state government on Saturday began examining private bus owners’ demand to hike fares in view of the latest increase in diesel prices. “We have sent our proposal to the state government. The government is likely to take a decision on this shortly,” said a member of the technical committee. In the wake of diesel price hike, the Private Bus Owners’ Association has been demanding a hike in bus fares and has even threatened to go on an indefinite strike from October 14 if the government does not increase the fares.
Secretary, commerce and transport, G Mathivathanan, said the technical committee, headed by transport commissioner S Kumar, on bus fares has submitted its report to the state government. “It is under active consideration of the government,” he said. “We shall have no option but to go on ceasework from October 14 unless the government raises the bus fares,” said general secretary, All Odisha Private Bus Owners’ Association, Debendra Sahoo.
Private Bus Owners’ Association secretary Debendra Sahoo said: “We have demanded that the state government either waive tax on diesel or hike bus fares keeping in view the high cost of operation of running the buses.” Demanding an average increase of 10.81% in bus fares, Sahoo said 2,000 buses owned by small time operators are already off the roads due to mounting losses fuelled by the nearly Rs 6 per litre rise in diesel prices (including taxes) since mid-September.
“The association members jointly own about 12,000 buses. While 2,000 buses have stopped plying on the roads awaiting increase in bus fares, the rest will be forced to go off the roads as there has been an increase in prices of most factors, not only diesel, determining bus fares,” Sahoo said. There are 13 parameters such as battery, insurance, mobile, taxes, he added.
Under such circumstances, a hike in bus fares seems imminent, as the waiving of service tax would result in loss of revenue to the state government. The government had last increased bus fares on July 18, 2011. It now stands at 50 paise per km (general category), 53 paise per km (express), 70 paise per km (de luxe) and 85 paise per km (air-conditioned de luxe).
Sources said the ruling BJD is wary of going for a hike in bus fares keeping in mind the possible political repercussions.