After waiting patiently for the past four months expecting a favourable decision from the Pinarayi Vijayan government for effecting a hike in bus fares, the private bus operators in Kerala on Saturday said they have no option but to go on an indefinite strike.
The bus operators said they are deeply disappointed as the state budget had no mention of any sops.
After a meeting on Saturday, the representatives of the Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation (KSPBOF) said they have been demanding to raise the minimum fare to Rs 12 and also the student fare to Rs 6, but nothing has happened, even after the Kerala government promised to look into their needs four months back.
“We have no other way but to go ahead with an indefinite strike as we just are unable to pull on. We have decided that the only way is a strike and it will be announced in three days time after discussion with all others,” said a KSPBOF office bearer who also added that a state government appointed Justice (rtd) M. Ramachandran Commission had recommended for a hike in fares.
About 12,500 private buses operate in Kerala and is the backbone of the daily travel of the common man as the state run Road Transport Corporation has around 6,500 buses only.
Incidentally, in December last year a strike was announced but it was called off on assurance by State Transport Minister Antony Raju that all their needs would be addressed.
Moreover, the private bus operators were expecting sops by way of more concession in taxes during the two-year Covid pandemic when the buses were off the roads, but there was no mention of that in the budget presented by Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal.
The bus operators have been in dire straits on account of the high operating costs, inability to pay workers and the cost of servicing.
Last month it was big news when a few members the Contract Carriage Owners Association (CCOA) who are having a hand to mouth existence decided to sell their luxury buses and priced it at Rs 45 for a kg.