Diesel price hike forces buses to idle in Kolkata
Commuters across West Bengal and more specifically in the capital city of Kolkata are at the receiving end as a significant number of private buses are off the roads. In the absence of timely fare revision, operators deem it fit to not run loss making buses at all. The operators had postponed this withdrawal to after the festive season in the hope of a fare revision. However, the recent hike of 18 paise, which has added to the already considerable hike of Rs 5.87 per litre has put paid to such hopes.
It is estimated that daily earnings of a private bus operator is around Rs 5,500 per day, while the expenditure has gone beyond Rs 7,200. The sorry scenario is not confined to the private sector alone. Even the five transport PSUs (public sector undertakings) have the same grouse. The monthly fuel bill of CSTC and CTC has increased by about Rs 95 lakh. According to the transport department the fuel bill for South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) has increased by about Rs 40 lakh per month, while that for the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC), soared close to Rs 60 lakh per month and West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC) rose by Rs 10 lakh.
Though the PSUs get subsidy to the tune of Rs 600 crore per year the future is bleak as the state government has recently made it clear that the subsidy regime will not continue indefinitely.
Call for 60 percent hike
Private bus operators in West Bengal have demanded a 60 percent hike in fares owing to increased diesel rates. The recent hike in diesel has hit most of the operators across the state with over 50 percent of the 685 buses being ferried under the JNNURM scheme being pulled off the roads. The operators want the minimum fare for non-AC JNNURM buses to be increased from the present Rs 5 to Rs 8. Oil prices have shot up by 45 percent since 2009 leading to higher operating costs for bus operators.