Citing lack of funds, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy confirmed that the state government will not implement the scheme to provide free bus passes for students.
He further said that he had never made a promise to implement such a scheme.
The statement by the CM comes even as students, who are protesting against the issue, threatened to intensify the call for a bandh.
On Saturday, several student unions staged a protest at Town Hall in Bengaluru. Schools and colleges in the state saw reduced attendance as some students did not attend classes after a bandh was called by the unions.
Students in the state say that they have to pay up to Rs. 100 per day on the bus fare.
Student unions in the state, including All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO), which helped organise the protest on Saturday, plan to intensify protests against the state government.
Sitara, a Masters student at Bengaluru University, who participated in the protests, says, “We thought the CM would relent after the protest. The CM’s statement is disappointing. We will continue the protests because we feel this is a justified demand.”
Ashwini, secretary of AIDSO, accused the CM of changing his stance on the issue.
“When the current government presented its budget, it had claimed that all schemes of the previous government would continue and this scheme was present in the budget presented by former CM Siddaramaiah. Now, the current CM is saying that he never made the promise,” says Ashwini.
Concessional bus pass scheme was a long-standing demand of students and student unions in the state, with several even protesting over the issue.
While free bus passes were earlier restricted to students of SC/ST category, the Siddaramaiah government in February had announced that all students in the state will be able to avail the scheme.
The newly formed JD(S)-Congress coalition government had announced that all the schemes of the previous government will be continued.
However, in spite of the scheme figuring in the budget presented by then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in February, students have not received bus passes for the new academic year over a month after it began. It did not even figure in the budget presented by Kumaraswamy on July 5.
Pressure had been mounting on the state government to live up to its promise of continuing the schemes present in the previous budget.