Hefty traffic fines to hurt rural bus passengers

Hefty traffic fines to hurt rural bus passengers

The state government has three corporations - KSRTC, NEKRTC and NWKRTC - providing bus services in suburban areas

An unexpected result of the hike in the penalty for violation of traffic rules is the deprivation of commuting services to rural folk as private players who run buses and small passenger vehicles in the absence of public transport, are having second thoughts. 

The recent notification by the Transport Department has hiked the fines for the overloading of passengers. As per the revised notification, a bus owner has to pay Rs 200 per every extra passenger instead of the present penalty of Rs 100.

Jayaprakash K V, vice president of Karnataka Bus Owners' Federation (KBOF), said the condition of the roads in rural areas makes running of any vehicle not feasible. 

“The quality of major district roads, which have been notified as the state highways, has improved over the years. But rural interior roads take a toll on vehicles which require repeated maintenance services. Forcing private players to pay hefty fines on top of this will only make them turn away from the business,” he said.

The state government has three corporations - KSRTC, NEKRTC and NWKRTC - providing bus services in suburban areas. However, more than 5,000 villages are yet to get public transport connectivity as permits for the same are pending with the district transport authorities. Private players run jeeps, maxi cabs and buses to fill such cabs.

Jayaprakash said the vehicle owners were not in favour of overloading the buses but said the passengers fight to get inside packed buses due to lack of alternative transport. “Drivers and conductors are helpless as passengers will get very angry if they are not allowed to board buses. They are the regular commuters and we can’t afford to exclude them,” he said.

Rajavarma Ballal, president of the KBOF, said the federation has written to the state and central government seeking a relook. “We welcome the revision of rules but the governments should have held a stakeholders meeting before notifying them. Officials need to understand the realistic problems we face on the road,” he said.

Ballal said the hike in fuel prices has hurt private players running buses in suburban areas. “Ridership in these areas is unpredictable. On top of this, paying more for overloading passengers will make the entire business less appealing,” he said.

Jayaprakash suggested that the department should place the fine on passengers. “Instead of holding only the vehicle owners responsible, the department should collect the penalty from passengers, since they board the bus willingly,” he said.