Minister says yes to free bus pass, no to fare hike

Minister says yes to free bus pass, no to fare hike


Transport Minister D C Thammanna on Wednesday said that the government was unlikely to hike bus fares for the moment.

Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, Thammanna said that the Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) had proposed around 15% hike in bus fares.

“There is a proposal. But I am yet to discuss the matter with the chief minister. But for the present, the thinking is to not introduce the hike. We are planning to cut down on our expenditure and increase our revenues - without introducing the hikes. I have stalled it for the moment, given that this is still a new government. Though I am personally not keen on effecting the hike, a final decision will be taken after my discussions with the chief minister,” he added.

The four state-owned transport corporations - KSRTC, North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC), North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) have each proposed a hike of around 15% each.

According to official sources, the hike has been proposed after a period of three-and-a-half years. The last hike (by 7.96%) was effected in 2014.

Officials said that the corporations had been severely hit by the steep increase in diesel prices over the last five to six months. This was in addition to the increase in wages to the staff/employees.

The only way to neutralise the heavy monthly expenditure of around Rs 450 crore to Rs 500 crore was to introducing a hike in fares, added officials. Putting an end to the confusion prevailing over the issue of free bus passes to students, Thammanna said that the government would go ahead with the scheme, even though it was going to be a huge financial burden.

The scheme might come into effect much before the budget is announced, he added. Thammanna had earlier said that the government might not implement the free bus pass scheme announced by former chief minister Siddaramaiah, as it would mean an additional burden of Rs 629 crore.

He, however, said that Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy would announce the introduction of the scheme in a day or two. Presently, KSRTC has been issuing passes on concessional rates. While the government is bearing 50% of the cost; KSRTC is footing in 25%. The remaining 25% is being borne by the beneficiaries. To issue free passes, the government has to bear the beneficiary cost as well. However, the Finance Department has refused to give concurrence to the same, said Thammanna.

“Hence I have proposed to the government that the Transport department will contribute another 15% of the cost. I have also requested Primary and Secondary Education department to pitch in, so that we can reduce the government’s burden. It’s a novel scheme - education is important,” he added.