The government that relied heavily on private sector transport to make alternative arrangements for commuters across the State, allowed any vehicle, even those without permit, to ferry passengers on Wednesday. This comes close on the heels of tax breaks for April and allowing private buses to use RTC bus stand infrastructure.
However, on Wednesday, neither commuters nor private operators were happy. While commuters allege they were fleeced, private operators rued that passengers were few, causing them losses.
“Private operators demanded almost double the normal rates and officials allowed it,” Fakirappa Byragond, a passenger in Raichur, said. Even in Bengaluru, private buses charged more than the prescribed rate card by BMTC. “On routes that we have been assigned, there were not enough passengers for the trips to be viable. So, we asked passengers to pay ₹10 to ₹20 extra than what the BMTC prescribed,” a bus operator admitted.
S. Nataraj Sharma, chairman, Karnataka State Travel Operators Association, said most passengers appear to have stayed away from travelling given the wide publicity the strike got. “Most people didn’t want to take a chance. As a result, we have more buses than passengers. In Majestic, there are 360 buses, but passengers enough only for 50 to 60 buses. There is no profit for us,” he said. Radhakrishna Holla, president, Karnataka State Travel Operators Association, said private taxis too reported a similar response.
However, with the bus strike being extended indefinitely, this will change from Thursday, said transport officials, and orders have been issued exempting from the permit clause so as to mobilise more vehicles, a senior official said.