Apart from the few number of replacement applications received by the authority, private operators have also given thumbs down to the scheme of running buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).
State Transport Minister Ranjit Kundu said: “Out of the 3,500 buses, which fall under the High Court ban, only 465 have applied for replacement. If by the October 31 deadline we do not see private operators coming in for replacements we have to think of increasing the number of government buses again.”
He added that whoever has not applied for replacment will have his route permit scrapped. Earlier, following the High Court ban on 15-year-old commercial vehicles in Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA), commuting system in the city had gone haywire. The state government had then decided to acquire a new set of 1,300 buses under the JNNURM, of which 100 were for Asansol alone.
Over 630 buses, out of the new ones, were earmarked for West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation, which were to be run by private bus operators. Transport officials, however, said they could find very few takers for these buses.
The main contention of the bus operators is the fear of loan burden, which they claim would be less if the buses are not bought under the JNNURM. Again, there is the issue of ownership where though the loan would be taken in the name of the corporation (who will continue to be the owner) the installments would be paid by the operators.
“We would have to pay Rs 23,000 as installment money for the JNNURM buses. But the ownership would not be in our name. If we are unable to pay the loan, buses would be taken from us,” said Swarnokomal Saha, general secretary, Bengal Bus Syndicate. He added: “With its long length there may be routes where the buses may not be able to ply.” According to Saha the cost of buses under JNNURM is Rs 5 lakh more than other buses since they come with built-up bodies.