The bus fare hike in Tamil Nadu drew all round flak from political parties, including the main opposition DMK, which accused the government of being ‘sadistic’ and giving a ‘thunderbolt’ to the people. The parties demanded that the fares be immediately rolled back. The Tamil Nadu government last night hiked the fares of buses under State run transport corporations and private entities approximately by 20 to 54.54 per cent, after a six year gap, saying it was inevitable. DMK working President M K Stalin today accused the Palaniswami-led government of being “sadist” and said the steep hike to the tune of Rs 3,600 crore a year was unacceptable and was a ‘thunderbolt’ imposed on the people. “I strongly condemn the AIADMK government for imposing this heavy burden on the people, whose buying power has already been diminished,” he said Stalin, Leader of Opposition in the State assembly, blamed the government for the losses suffered by State-run transport corporations and alleged that the hike had been effected to hide it’s ‘administrative ineffiency’.
This also raised a question on whether the move was to help private operators, he said. The government had said yesterday that State run transport corporations had incurred a recurring loss of Rs 20,488 crore. Also, during the past seven years, the State had provided a subsidy of Rs 12,059.17 crore to transport corporations to help them tackle the fund crunch, it said. Stalin also charged the government with not taking any “steps” to increase revenue from non-fare modes like operating courier service, motels and advertisements on buses. He also flayed the government for effecting a nearly 100 per cent hike in salaries for MLAs and now going in for an increase in bus fare, a view echoed by PMK chief Ramadoss. The PMK said a state-wide protest demonstration would be held on January 25, seeking immediate roll back of hike.
He said Omni bus operators already charge higher fares and that they planned to further increase it. The hike was to facilitate profiteering by private operators, he alleged. Sidelined AIADMK leader and RK Nagar MLA T T V Dhinakaran also demanded that the hike be withdrawn. “People will not accept the bus fare hike. The government should withdraw the hike,” he told reporters. Dhinakaran loyalist and former state transport minister Senthil Balaji said the hike was not justifiable now, given that there was a decline in industrial growth and no employment generation. CPI(M) State Secretary G Ramakrishnan said the party would stage dharnas and hold protest demonstrations across Tamil Nadu on January 22 against the bus fare hike.
Seeking an immediate rollback, he said the government’s announcment of forming a committee to look at restructuring the fare structure in future was ‘a big betrayal’ of people. DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi alleged that corruption and government’s ineffieceny in managing the bus transport sector had led to fare increase and demanded that it be withdrawn. The hike in bus fares is a clear indication that the Government was not functioning properly, particularly in the transport sector, she told reporters at Coimbatore airport. She recalled that the transport workers’ demands were solved through negotiations during DMK rule and there was no increase in bus fares then.
The government while hiking the bus fares last night,also announced a fund for accident compensation and prevention, besides a panel to go into restructuring of fares in future. Effective today, the fare has been hiked for buses across categories viz moffusil, city, ordinary, express, deluxe, bypass-non-stop, ultra deluxe, airconditioned and Volvo modes, an official release said. While the minimum hike is in moffusil ordinary category, where the fare of Rs 5 for 10 km would now be Rs 6 (20 per cent hike), the highest is in Volvo buses, where the fare of Rs 33 for 30 km will now go up to Rs 51 (54.54 per cent hike).