High diesel bill forces Karnataka RTCs to seek bus fare hike

Reeling under losses due to Covid induced curbs and high diesel cost, cash-strapped Karnataka state Road Transport Corporations (RTCs) sought increase in bus fares, a top official said on Friday.

With diesel price soaring 50 per cent due to increase in excise duty by the Central government since April 2020, the four RTCs have suffered a combined loss of Rs 2,500 crore over the last 10 months of fiscal 2020-21 and have jointly petitioned the state government to allow them to increase the bus fares to minimise the mounting losses.

“We have asked the state government to permit us to increase bus fares by 15-20 per cent to reduce operational loss due to steep hike in diesel price and carrying less passengers to maintain social distancing amid the pandemic,” Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) Managing Director C. Kalasad told reporters here.

“Covid-induced lockdown and limiting passengers to 50 per cent of the bus capacity to maintain physical distancingy have reduced our earnings and increased our operational losses,” said North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation Managing Director Krishna Bajpai.

The prolonged pandemic also reduced the movement of people across the state and outside, forcing the RTCs to reduce trips. With Covid-induced curbs restricting people from travelling to tourist spots, on pilgrimage or to their native places, the buses have been carrying less than 50 per cent of passengers compared to pre-Covid times.

“Though near normalcy has returned gradually with the opening up of the economy and lifting Covid-induced restrictions on movement of people, work from home or from anywhere has minimised commuting on intra-state and inter-state routes,” a state Transport Department official told IANS.

As bus fares were increased 3 years ago, they are due for upward revision to meet the increasing operational cost, including the wage bill.

With daily earnings from bus services below 50 per cent, the state RTCs have been struggling to pay salaries to their employees over the last 3 months, leading to protest strike in January across the state.