Representational Image. Image Courtesy: DNA India
Kolkata: Transport woes of commuters compounded on Monday with a large number of private buses remaining off the roads in the city, demanding a fare hike in the wake of rising fuel prices and COVID-19 restrictions on the number of passengers allowed to board.
Travellers complained of inordinate delays in getting to their destinations as fewer private buses are in operation in the metropolis and its suburbs compared to last week.
Commuters have been facing hardships owing to lack of public transport since the beginning of Unlock-1 on June 8, when most government and private offices and establishments reopened.
Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, one of the largest associations of private bus operators in the city and the districts, said the current fare structure is not viable.
"High diesel prices, coupled with the state government's directive to allow only sitting capacity passengers, have crippled services. Ticket sales are not enough to even pay for the fuel cost, leave alone other expenses," its general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.
Fuel prices were hiked for the 22nd time on Monday in just over three weeks.
Dipali Roy, an employee with an ad agency, said commuting to office is a painful experience for her every day.
“I was late to work by two hours this morning, as there were no buses available for Tollygunge from Airport Gate No 1. It was also raining heavily and App cabs were cancelling bookings. Finally, I managed to get a taxi but reached office well behind schedule," she said.
"Commuting to office in Sector-V Salt Lake is a nightmare, as buses are barely available and most of them arrive filled to seating capacity. App cabs charge a bomb, and finding a regular taxi is a matter of luck," said Ankit Gupta, a resident of Kasba.
According to All Bengal Bus Minibus Sammanoy Samity (coordination committee) general secretary Rahul Chatterjee, there are around 27,000 private buses in the state.
Around 25% of the total number was in operation last week, officials said.
"The state government offering to pay a monthly dole of Rs 15,000 each for 6,000 private buses for three months will create confusion and division among the owners," Chatterjee said, adding, a fare hike is the only solution to the current imbroglio.
He said the coordination committee has not called for any stoppage of services, but given the losses being incurred daily, owners are withdrawing vehicles from the routes.
State transport undertaking, WBTC, however, is running buses at full strength, its managing director Rajanvir Singh Kapur said.