Private bus operators in Kerala today decided to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow demanding further increase in bus fares, saying the hike announced by the state government was “insufficient”. The Kerala government had yesterday announced the hike in government and private bus fares. It will come into effect from March 1. Representatives of the private bus associations in the state met here today and said that private buses across the Kerala will keep off the road from tomorrow as part of an indefinite strike seeking further increase in fares. “We are disappointed with the announcement on the fare hike… It is insufficient to meet even our daily needs,” a private bus operator said here. The decision to go on a strike was taken in view of the spiralling fuel prices and operational costs, leaders of private bus operators’ federation said. They also alleged that many of the demands made by the bus operators, including a hike in minimum charge of students’ concession, bring petrol and diesel under the GST, withdrawal of increased road tax and constitution a regulatory committee, were not addressed by the state government. The minimum charge should be increased to Rs 10 and there should be a 50 per cent hike in students concession, the federation said. According to the charges announced by the government, the minimum fare for an ordinary bus service will be Rs 8, up from Rs 7, and for fast passenger services, the fare will be Rs 11 instead of Rs 10. Along with the minimum fare, charges per kilometre for all category of services have also been raised. The hike ranges between eight paise and Rs 6. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took the decision at a Cabinet meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister A K Saseendran appealed to the private operators to withdraw their decision to go on a strike. He said the announcement was made on the basis of the recommendations of Justice C Ramachandran panel that went into the problems faced by the transport industry. Private bus operators are very well aware of it, Saseendran said in Kottayam. The Congress-led UDF Opposition had slammed the LDF government’s move to increase the fare, saying the state government was putting more burden on the people who were already suffering due to steep raise in price of essential commodities. The operators also decided to hold an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Secretariat in the state capital from February 19 to press for their demands.