West Bengal: Operators relent, private buses to resume services from Thursday – Times of India

Kolkata News
KOLKATA: Faced with the prospect of the idle bus fleet being confiscated by the government and cancellation of permits, private operators softened their stance on Wednesday and said most buses would hit the road by Thursday.

Transport secretary Prabhat Mishra and key officials handling public transportation met bus operators at Maidan Tent of the West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) on Wednesday to end the imbroglio on services that were suspended after the private operators refused to climb down from their fare hike stand in lieu of the Rs 15,000 per month subsidy that the government had proposed for 6,000 private buses.
Incensed by the rigid stand, CM Mamata Banerjee had issued an ultimatum to bus operators on Tuesday. The buses, she said, would be taken over by the government if they did not hit the road by Thursday.
Pressure started building up on Tuesday evening when police and motor vehicle inspectors began surveying buses that were parked on the road. The survey sent a signal to operators on the probable action on multiple fronts against operators. The bus operators found themselves under further pressure when an advocate filed a PIL at the Calcutta High Court, challenging their decision to not ply the buses and sought relief for passengers from the court.
When transport department officials met the private bus operators on Wednesday, the latter were already in a corner. But they continued to maintain a defiant posture as they walked in. But the stance gradually mellowed during the two-and-a-half hour meeting as transport department officials impressed upon the operators the need to be pragmatic and not push the situation to a point of no return. When the operators finally consented, relief was palpable.
“At the meeting, we made it clear that the government will be weighing options and will choose one that is in the best interest of commuters and operators. And that can happen only if they are with the government. We are glad that the bus operators came with an open mind and saw reason,” an official said.
Bus operators said they continued to pursue their demands through talks. “The meeting opened the path for dialogue. We explained how we have lost all resources to operate buses while complying with Covid-19 social distancing norms and consecutive diesel price hikes. We reiterated why fare revision was the only way to save the trade from an imminent death,” said Tapan Bandyopadhyay, secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.
Bus operators have proposed a ‘special lockdown fare’ till the complete normality resumes. Transport department officials said the proposal will be conveyed to the highest level but pointed out that fare hike remained a politically sensitive issue.
Pradip Narayan Basu, secretary of the West Bengal Bus and Minibus Owners’ Association, said: “We are happy at the outcome of the meeting. We have not stopped plying buses.”

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/operators-relent-private-buses-to-resume-services-from-today/articleshow/76737724.cms