The Karnataka Government has proposed to hike both Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus ticket fares by 18% owing to the soaring fuel prices. Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) or Forum of Bengaluru’s Bus Commuters, on October 8, 2018, conducted a 'Call your MLA campaign' to get people to call their MLAs and ask them to communicate to the CM that the bus fares should not be increased.
Prior to this campaign, BBPV on September 20, 2018, had a ‘Commuter Ballot’ campaign at Kempegowda Bus Stand, Majestic. Volunteers from constituent groups of BBPV, such as Mahila Karmikara Munnade, Garment and Textile Workers’ Union, Sadhana Mahila Sangha, Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanekala Okkutta and student groups had taken part in this campaign. Of the 569 votes polled, 543 (95%) voted against the fare hike and 25 (4%) voted in favour of the hike.
Also Read: HP Nagrik Sabha to Launch Protests Against Hike in Bus Fares
According to Vinay Srinivasa of BBPV, around 50 lakh people use BMTC buses for their daily commute. Apart from the office going middle class, BMTC commuters include large sections of urban deprived communities such as domestic workers, security guards, construction labourers, street vendors, municipal workers and garment workers. Currently, Bengaluru has the highest bus fares in the country. As on September 12, 2018, the BMTC bus fares in the city were as high as Rs. 19/- upto 10 kms while for cities like Chennai, Calcutta it is only Rs. 8 and Rs. 9, respectively.
Still the CM is meeting the transport minister today to discuss the further hike in fares. BBPV asked, “Why burden the poor more? When the government can spend thousands of crore on metro and elevating corridors, why not give Rs. 200 crore to BMTC to help it cut losses, so that fares are not increased?” The press note of BBPV noted that the high fares combined with easy availability of other competing modes, such as shared cabs/autos, two-wheelers etc., which are also cheaper and offer quicker and more convenient service than the bus, has led to a decline in the ridership for BMTC over the years. Some estimates suggest that, over the last 4-5 years, the daily passenger trips have fallen to less than 45 lakh. Another fare hike will not just be disastrous for the average bus commuter, but the BMTC as well.
Nagaveni, an Anganwadi teacher spoke to S. R. Vishwanath, MLA of Yelahanka constituency. The teacher told the MLA that if the bus fares are hiked then she would have to spend 20 per cent of her income on commute. Vishwanath informed her that the MLAs are in dialogue with the CM regarding the decision and are striving hard to stop such a move.
When Ramdas Rao of BBPV called Bhairati Suresh, MLA of Hebbal constituency, he was told that the hike is in the context of the hike in fuel prices and is inevitable. However, he assured that since the people in the state are opposing the move he would talk to the CM and ask him not to go ahead with it.
- The bus fares should not be hiked. Instead, BMTC should be supported financially like the Metro, so that they can provide better bus services.
- CM should meet bus commuters’ groups and find out from commuters how BMTC should be strengthened.
- Fares should, in fact, be reduced so that more people will use the bus and also because then the poor will find commuting more affordable.
- BMTC should cut down on wasteful expenditure like buying electric buses worth hundreds of crores. At the same cost several ordinary buses can be bought.
- All taxes paid to BMTC should be re-imbursed.
- CM Shri Kumaraswamy should write to PM Shri Narenda Modi and tell him that all RTCs across the country are suffering due to high diesel fares and that RTCs should be given diesel at special fares so that bus commute will be cheaper.