At a time when diesel and petrol prices have been hiked by the Central government amidst the lockdown, private bus operators have appealed to the West Bengal government to increase the fares, to which the government had refused. On Tuesday, commuters faced a harrowing time when several buses went off the road in protest and commuters had to push their way into other buses which were filled beyond their capacity in the current times. There are rules of certain number of passengers allowed on buses and overcrowding is not permitted in a bid to follow social distancing norms.
Hours later, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to bus operators to put their ego fight aside and said if required the state will bear the expenses of buses operating. Mamata also said the state will consider taking the legal route if bus operators do not comply.
“We were ready to give Rs 27 crore subsidy so that common man doesn’t get affected due to private buses not plying. I still appeal them to keep their word, if they don’t then we have to find a way out, we have called them and spoken to them but then we have decided that we will take the legal route.” Said Mamata.
“If required the buses will take these buses and recruit drivers to run the buses. The expenses will be borne by the state. But I still appeal to bus owners to stop their ego fights and run the buses and not to force us to take legal route. For this the government will take two three days time,” added Mamata.
Bus operators, on their part, say they are facing heavy losses as there are less number of passengers on the buses which translates into bus operators not being able to meet the basic cost coupled with the rise in fuel prices over the last few weeks.
The Mamata government has appealed to the Centre to start Metro railway services with limited passengers in essential service sectors to take the burden off the buses and auto rickshaws for commuting. However, metro services are not likely to resume till August.