The long Sankranthi weekend has thousands across the two Telugu states traveling to their native places to spend the festival with family and loved ones. This despite the usual travel chaos and the exorbitant ticket prices charged by travel agents including the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) and the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC).
The usually crowded bus terminals in Hyderabad such as Jubilee Bus Station, CBS and LBS Nagar are teeming with people.
While Hyderabad and Vijayawada are the main terminals, several other places such as Warangal, Rajahmundry and Visakhapatnam, Tirupati serve as major hubs for connecting buses.
To cope with the festive crowd, AP and TS RTC's has extended several bus routes, while South Central railway has come up with 2 special trains between Visakhapatnam and Secunderabad.
Speaking to TNM, APsRTC Deputy Chief Traffic Manager Nagendra Babu said, "We are running as many as 1000 bus services including A/C services from the Krishna region alone. This is being done in two sessions – one to handle the onward rush from January 10 to 15, and the other to handle the return rush from January 15 to 18.”
Despite the increase in services, a number of passengers are still struggling to get tickets.
Akhil Kumar, an engineering student in Hyderabad, said he just about made it back to his home in Nizamabad for Sankranthi. “We somehow managed to reach home. Though there is an increase in the number of services, there is a huge influx of passengers.”
But it’s not just the holiday rush that passengers have to deal with but also exorbitant fares.
Private buses shuttling between Hyderabad and Vijayawada, which normally charge Rs 500-600, are now pricing a single ticket between Rs 1000 and Rs 1200. Similarly, a bus ticket between Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, which normally costs Rs 1200-1300, is now being sold at Rs 1800.
Nageshwar Rao, an employee with a private company in Visakhapatnam said, "Normally, it is Rs 500 from Visakhapatnam to Vijayawada. But in this mess I had to shell out Rs 900.”
But it’s not just the private operators. The state-run APSRTC has also increased fares by Rs 200 for the festival season.
When TNM brought up the issue of high fares with APSRTC’s Nagendra Babu, he said, "The fares are standard. Between Hyderabad and Vijayawada, it is Rs 900 now, while it would normally cost Rs 650. Between Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, it costs Rs 800, while the regular fare is Rs 600.”
Passengers, however, have very little option but to cough up the extra charges if they want to return home for Sankranthi.
“I think it would be good if we stay back wherever we are, instead of going home. But it’s only during a big festival where we can all meet,” says Balu G, who planned to travel from Vijayawada to his hometown of Anakapalle.