Lockdown Woes: Stiff EMIs, Road Taxes Add to Uncertain Future of Guwahati's Motor Transport Operators
Expressing his concern, general secretary of All Assam Motor Transport Association, Pradip Das told G Plus, “The motor transport owners have been talking amongst ourselves and have decided to place a few demands before the government to provide us with some relief during this difficult phase.” He was of course agonizing over the current lockdown and the pulverizing sledge-hammer effect it has had on Guwahati’s public transport system.
No one can remember the last time when all modes of public transport were brought to a standstill for an extended period of time, as it is being witnessed now.
The lockdown has halted all semblance of normal, everyday life for almost everyone. But the people who were at the helm of operating the public transport system in Guwahati have been badly affected by the pandemic and for some of them it is proving to be a struggle for survival.
With the lockdown which was put in place to arrest the spread of coronavirus in the country, the source of livelihood of owners of city buses, autos, e-rickshaws and shared taxis has effectively vanished.
Das went on to add that since all their vehicles have been under lockdown and have not been plying on roads, the owners of various forms of public transport should be exempted from paying the road tax for the next four months, which they pay in advance for every quarter.
Further, another bus owner said that they also want to appeal to the authorities to exempt them from paying the EMIs for their vehicles.
“We pay as much as Rs 58,000 as monthly instalment. In the coming times, we would request the government to think of providing us some relief after talking to financial institutions,” he said.
The city bus operators also mentioned that they have been paying salaries to their staff including the handymen and the conductors, but are now placed under financial crunch and therefore the easing of EMIs and road taxes would bring in some much-needed respite.
It is to be mentioned that there are currently 960 city buses plying on the roads of Guwahati. Each bus has a driver, a conductor and a handyman. So, at least 2,880 families of bus operators and their staff are worried about the uncertain pace of business which the next few months would bring.
Additionally, there are close to 1,500 autos and 700 e-rickshaws operational in Guwahati.
Another worrying question worth pondering over is how does the future of public transport look like in the coming months when social distancing will continue to be the norm in public places?
Once the lockdown is lifted, will the city buses, e-rickshaws and shared taxis operate with reduced number of passengers in a bid to maintain social distancing? Further, fewer passengers per trip would also mean lesser profit for the operators. So, would such a situation be financially viable for them?
G Plus asked the district transport officer Bapan Kalita, about the tentative time when public transport is likely to resume in the city. “It is very difficult to say anything till May 3 - till the time the lockdown is in place. We will be able to take a decision only after the central government issues its guidelines,” said Kalita.
It might not be wrong to assume that the next few months would be challenging times for the motor transport operators even after life starts limping back to normalcy, if at all it does.