Operators of private buses expressed their helplessness in providing services in COVID- 19-free green zones in the state as announced by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, claiming that carrying only 20 passengers at a time would not be feasible to run the vehicles.
Associations of bus operators said that either the government should pay subsidy for running the buses or it may requisition the vehicles for running these in different routes. The chief minister announced that intra-district private bus services would commence in green zones of the state and each of the vehicles would carry only 20 passengers at a time for maintaining social distancing norms.
Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity (coordination committee) general secretary Rahul Chatterjee said that plying a 50 or 60-seater bus with only 20 persons would lead to huge financial loss to owners, who are already facing a grim situation owing to the lockdown.
"It will not be possible to cover the cost of fuel even if a bus has to be plied with only one-third of its seating capacity, leave alone staff salary," Chatterjee said.
He said that either the Transport department has to revise the fares accordingly or requisition the buses and run those on their own, making a daily payment to the owners as is done during general elections.
Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Tapan Banerjee said that it would not be feasible to run the buses with only a few passengers and that too in intra-district routes only. He said that most of the routes outside the major cities are inter-district and claimed that there will not be even 20 passengers for a bus if these are plied in very short routes in the rural or mofussil areas.
"The government should calculate the cost of running a bus per kilometre and then come to a decision on it," he said, adding that it has to pay subsidy to the owners if it plans to run bus services with only 20 passengers. He said that the government should discuss these issues with the owners and take a pragmatic decision.