Public transports are considered to be the lifelines of Mumbai — be it local trains or buses — not only in terms of its convenience for travelling and safety measures, also in terms of economy as not everyone can afford the privilege to travel in their own private vehicles. After the train, the most preferred option being the bus to commute not only in Mumbai but in other Indian cities as well. The private bus operators take advantage of the peak season rush in summers and charge with high fares to the passengers travelling outside the city.
With the huge number of people commuting during the summer vacations, as it is the only time for the middle-class families to enjoy their holidays; here the private tourist buses fleece them with a hike of more than the double of the regular fare during the offseason. While, officially the private bus operators are allowed to charge only 50 per cent more than the fare charged by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses for each kilometer, according to a government resolution (GR) released by the state home department on April 27.
Former transport minister Gulabrao Deokar said, “If the government has issued a warning for the private buses to not allow them to charge more than the regulated fare, then it should be implemented and if the private bus agencies are not listening to the government’s intimation, strict action must be taken against them.”
“The common man is being looted by the private buses. It is viable if they increase the charges by approx Rs 100 than the government buses, but it is not justified to increase the fare more than double or triple the amount. There should be a strict regulation on it.” he added.
Acting on a Bombay High Court directive, the state government also fixed the maximum fare of private buses which is a first-of-its-kind of an initiative. Apart from that, the transport department launched a dedicated helpline for commuters on April 30 to register complaints against errant operators. The details of the bus operators can also be registered on an online portal and the complaints can also be registered on the regional transport office (RTO) helpline number provided by them.
A travel agent from Nishnai Travels stated, “Government has allowed us to charge maximum till one and a half times of the government fare. Hence, we have only increased Rs 100 for the vacation period.”
After facing with a deluge of complaints, the Transport Department warned the private bus operators to cancel their permits if passengers are overcharged. It has been more than a week that the order was issued by the state government, yet it is not being paid attention to and is treated with disdain as the private tourist buses operators still practice the same by charging the customers with a huge difference of fare.
When our team spoke to the Dolphin Travel House in Dadar to check with the price of tickets from Mumbai to Aurangabad for May 9, it quoted Rs 550 for seater bus that costs Rs 300-350 during non-peak seasons, while the sleeper bus at present costs Rs 1000 instead of Rs 600 in other times of the year. As stated by them, the reason for the hike in charges is the holiday period. Not only this travel agency, but there are many other who are practicing such kind of unlawful acts.
When AV spoke to Vighnesh Travels, one of its agents expressed, “There has been a hike in fair due to the holiday season. Currently, the rate is hiked by Rs 100-150 as compared to the government bus fare. The price hike is decided by the bus owners and not the agents.”
On one hand, the private tourist bus operators have failed to follow the regulations while on the other hand, the government always has been unsuccessful to curb the offenders of wrongdoings. This also puts light on the fact that the orders passed by the government are for the sake of documentation as they fall flat in keeping an eye on the implementation and seize the lawbreakers.
Konduskar Travels reacted, “We suffer losses in offseasons whether it is railways, air or bus tickets. So, to compensate for the losses, if we hike charges in off seasons, we get no customers. Hence, we are left with no choice other than increasing the fare during vacations.”
Looking at the current scenario, would it be wrong to say that the government lacks to get a hold of the culprits? In this situation of lawmaking and breaking, it comes across as the consumers are the ones who are affected the most by losing all the rights and perks being provided to them!