‘Unreasonable’ Hike in Bus Ticket Prices Creates Discomfort Among Travellers
While the Assam government’s decision to send stranded migrant workers as well as others back to their respective homes free of cost was applauded, now the opening of intra-district routes for bus services has created a new problem for passengers with private bus operators hiking the fares.
Allegations have surfaced from various parts of the state that private bus operators are charging arbitrarily from passengers.
“We were asked to pay Rs. 1000 to Rs. 1200 one way from Dhubri to Guwahati. Earlier we used to pay only Rs. 400,” said one migrant worker.
In the ongoing pandemic, many labourers had lost their jobs and were forced to go back to their native villages but now, when they want to come back to revive their livelihoods, they find themselves helplessly tackling the abnormal fare hike.
The Assam government, vide a notification, had stated that all buses should run at 50% occupancy maintaining social distancing. On this pretext many bus operators are charging double the normal fares just to cover up the losses incurred while complying with governments norms.
The owners and drivers of private transport vehicles, on the other hand, say that they are incurring losses as they are allowed to carry only 50 percent of their seating capacity. To meet the expenses, including the fuel and wages, they have been bound to increase the fare. A few city commuters said that the minimum city bus fare has been increased to Rs 10 from Rs 7. E-rickshaw and share taxi fares have also been doubled, and fares of long-distance bus services have shot up by 50 percent.
While no one is openly admitting what fares the private transporters are charging, on an average, the long-distance buses are charging 35-40% more than the normal fare.
Speaking to G Plus, Ashok Kumar Bhattarai, ASTC Chairman said, “We have strictly asked the buses running under the ASTC wing not to charge any extra money and comply with the norms at par with the government.”
Further, Bhattarai stated that tickets can be availed from the bus counter or from the Red Bus app at the nominal ticket prices and if any bus operator charges extra money for tickets one can raise a complaint to the nearest police station.
Speaking on the precautionary measures, Bhattarai said that the entire team of ASTC operating in this time of pandemic keeping in mind all possible safety measures, precautions and by following the guidelines issued by the Health and Home Ministry to prevent the infection from further spreading.
Further, all the ASTC drivers, conductors, staffs and officers who were involved in the process of transportation of passengers were provided PPE kits to ensure safety first so that they are not infected while carrying out services and inside the buses, the drivers and conductors were also given protection by making protective cabins in order to avoid undue contact with the passengers.
Although the state government has issued clear directive for the bus operators to ply the question remains uncertain with the lower class people as they neither are technically sound to book a ticket via the app or go ahead and lodge a complain.
Taking advantage of these situations and the plight of the labourers or the migrant workers a few of the bus operators are minting money in these times of pandemic.
Reportedly, in other parts of the state such as Barpeta, Jorhat, Majuli to name a few, several bus operators have hiked their fares as train services are yet to resume.
Speaking to G Plus, one of the passengers from Jorhat said, “I paid Rs. 800 just to travel from Jorhat to Guwahati via ‘Day Super’ bus.”
“Normally I used to take the train but as the train services are yet to resume these bus operators are taking advantage of this and charging higher prices,” he added.
It is to be mentioned that people post the ‘Unlock 1’ have started travelling whenever it has become mandatory. In due course of time it has been witnessed that thousands of people are returning to their workplace and want to start a fresh lease of life.
On the other hand with the scarcity of labourers in Guwahati many of the construction sites as well as other labour based activities have come to a halt.
Adding to the woes of the migrant workers the unseasonal rain has also dampened their livelihood in their native place as majority of their farms and paddy fields have been washed out with the flood leaving them to starve without anything left behind.