The government re-did the stages for bus routes on November 16, to rectify the confusion that the change in the fare structure on October 31 had created. Bus associations have stuck to the October 31 structure — illegally though — and said it would be impossible to follow the November 16 fares if they were to carry on with their business.
“We are going by the old structure of October 31, which gave some oxygen to us. The stages were revised with no logic. While commuters were paying and there were no confusion anywhere, the fares were suddenly redone. We are not accepting the new fare structure for two reasons: firstly, the fare chart has not arrived to us and secondly, it will make us go out of business fast,” said Tapan Banerjee, joint secretary, Joint Council of Bus Syndicates. He said the buses in the districts were worst hit and citing the example of Jalpaiguri where private buses that were under the council have stopped plying, said, “All private buses would die a natural death.”
Similar were the views of Deepak Sarkar, vice president, Bengal Bus Syndicate. He said after smoothly conducting business for a fortnight, why did the government have to bring in a fresh change. He said there was more to it than met the eyes.
“Was there any written complaint? Why were the six cabinet ministers involved in correcting the fare structure and then later on their views were ignored,” he asked and said they were still going by the October 31 fare and if any change is made in it, they would be forced to go for a bigger movement. If the government is so dissatisfied with the first change which was made according to our suggestions, it can challenge our suggestions.
“The fare that has been stipulated had been suggested in 2010 March, during the reign of CPM but the idea was shelved keeping in mind the forthcoming elections at that time,” he said. He also said that if the new change is forced on them, they would be forced to revolt.
The previous stages were 0-4, 4-12, 12-16 and 16-30 in terms of kilometres. Later, the state government announced a new stage structure on October 31 where it was 0-3, 3-6, 6-10, 10-16 and 16-30 but when a lot of confusion surfaced, the stages were redone on November 16 when it stood as 0-4, 4-12, 12-20 and 20-24.
Mini bus operators too surfaced their dissatisfaction. Abashesh Daw, general secretary, Mini Bus Operators Coordination Committee, said, “If the government thinks that the suggestions we have put forward are wrong, why doesn’t it challenge them? The buses and stages have been changed arbitrarily. Amidst everything, we have incurred a loss. Previously, the fare for the first 2 km was Rs 5 and for travelling 3-6 km one had to pay Rs 6. The two stages should be technically Rs 6 and 7 respectively. Now, the first stage is up to 3 km. So for a 3-km journey, a person is paying Rs 6. In a similar fashion, bus owners are losing out for a journey of 3, 15, 16 and 19 km,” he said.
He said that mini buses were 57 per cent smaller in size than the normal buses but the fare was only 25 per cent higher.
“Of the 2,500 buses that plied sometime ago, about 1,000 have been taken off the road as they failed to yield profit,” he said, adding that soon they would have to resort to greater movement against the unfair practices.