Fare hike: Commuters call it unjustified, transporters insufficient

"I have been waiting for a bus here for the past 40 minutes,” said Abdul Hamid at Jehangir Chowk.

SAQIB MALIK
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 17 2018 11:39PM | Updated Date: Sep 17 2018 11:39PM
Fare hike: Commuters call it unjustified, transporters insufficientRepresentational Pic

Neither commuters, nor transporters are happy with the 6.60 percent to 8.70 percent hike in passenger fares that will come into effect from Tuesday.

In its latest fare revision, the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) notified passenger fare list according to which the existing fare of Rs 6 for up to 3km in mini buses will remain unchanged. However, the fare has been increased from Rs 17 to Rs 19 for up to 20km. Sumo taxi fares are up by Rs 2, while auto-rickshaw fares have been raised by Rs 1-1.20 per kilometer.

Commuters resent the hike because they say fares were increased only last year, transporters rarely stick to government rates and arbitrarily charge more and, most importantly, the quality of services do not warrant a hike.

“Overloading is so rampant that we rarely get to sit on a seat. Conductors are ready with excuses to keep the change. They are ‘always short of change’. On certain routes, Sumo drivers overcharge,” said Omar Rashid, a government employee. 

Commuters also complain of shortage of buses, Sumos or mini-buses in the evenings, especially at Kashmir Hatt, Lal Chowk, Jehangir Chowk, Sanat Nagar, Rambagh, Jawahar Nagar, Abdullah Bridge, Sonwar, Batwara and Dalgate, Gogjibagh and Bemina.

"I have been waiting for a bus here for the past 40 minutes,” said Abdul Hamid at Jehangir Chowk.

And nearly all commuters who spoke to this reporter talked about the perennial issue of drivers prolonging the journey in search for passengers.

“They drag on needlessly for 30 to 40 minutes till the bus is overcrowded. The vehicles are also not comfortable. If one pays Rs 10 for a similar ride outside J&K you get the value for your money,” said Shazia, a commuter. 

She also hit at the MVD and Regional Transport Office for failing in their commitment to make transport in the Valley women friendly.

A government circular asks the transport department to ensure that vehicles have ‘Reserved for Women and Handicapped Persons’ written in Urdu and Hindi to demarcate seats for these categories. But, often, the rule is violated by public transporters.

Poor public transport, commuters say, has resulted in a spurt in the number of cars and bikes. As per automotive industry estimates, two-wheelers including bikes and scooty sales grew by 70 per cent in the past two years. According to RTO Kashmir figures, more than 45,000 computerised driving licences were issued in 2017-18 while in 2016-17, despite the civil unrest witnessed in the Valley, 28,500 new driving licences had been issued. An increase in private vehicles, in turn, has caused traffic problems. 

On the other, however, transporters say the fare hike is inadequate.

Haji Muhammad Yusuf, general secretary All Kashmir Transport Welfare Association, said a sharp increase in prices of diesel has hit transporters badly who will approach the MVD for a “revision in the fares”.  

“The fare revision meeting took place in April and since then diesel prices increased by Rs 6. Transport sector has been the worst hit since 2014 floods and 2016 unrest. People have to cooperate with us,” he added.

A senior MVD official told Greater Kashmir the fares were increased only after consultations between a “fare and fixation committee” of the government and transporters. 

“Finance commissioner and transporters along with MVD officials are a part of the meeting which revises fares. It is not necessary that the committee while revising fares will hike it but this time around it had no option but to press a hike due to a rise in fuel prices,” the official said.

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