Chief Minister to take final call
Deputy Chief Minister and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi, on Thursday, hinted at a ticket fare hike for buses run by Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). The minister said the pandemic and fuel price increase had led to huge losses for the corporation, following which BMTC had proposed a hike in the range of 18-20%. The move comes amidst a Bharat Bandh call by transporters and traders over fuel price hike.
The proposal has not gone down well with commuters who rely on BMTC buses to commute to work. The commuter-led forum, BMTC Bus Prayanikara Vedike, has threatened to stage protests if the government increases the fares.
“The Chief Minister will take a final call on the fare hike, such that neither BMTC nor the commuters are overly burdened,” Mr. Savadi said. He also clarified that there was no question of a fare hike in buses run by other road transport corporations as ticket rates had been increased by 12% last year. The last time BMTC fares were hiked was in 2014-15.
C. Shikha, Managing Director, BMTC, told The Hindu that the corporation was estimated to suffer losses to the tune of ₹700 crore for 2020-21, due to loss of ridership and fuel price hike. This is over and above the ₹540 crore loss it incurred in 2019-20. “The government helped us pay salaries of staff, otherwise even that would have been a problem during the pandemic,” she said.
The cost of a litre of diesel at bulk purchase cost in the range of ₹49-₹52 a year ago, which has now shot up to ₹77.50 a litre as on Thursday. Ridership is yet to return to normal levels post lockdown. As against an average daily ridership of 35 lakh before lockdown, it is now around 20 lakh a day, she pointed out, making a case for the fare hike.
While acknowledging the revenue deficit of BMTC, Bus Prayanikara Vedike members argued that a fare hike was not the answer. “The pandemic has hit incomes badly, especially in the unorganised sector where people have lost jobs as well. A bus fare hike at this stage can only be described as cruel,” said Vinay Sreenivasa of the Vedike.
He added that buses are a public service and the BMTC should not be run like a private for-profit firm. “The State government must support the corporation and not transfer the burden to commuters. The State government should at least exempt RTCs from fuel tax,” he said.
Regular commuters also pointed out that BMTC fares are already higher than their counterparts in other cities, which only deterred the poor from using its services. “Ridership and revenue both dipped after the previous hike in 2014-15. This is a flawed policy. Already garment workers and labourers find BMTC buses unaffordable and use private transport or walk long distances. Any fare hike will further hit ridership and push BMTC into a vicious cycle,” Mr. Sreenivasa argued.
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