With limited public transport options between the Telugu states, Hyderabad residents wanting to travel to Andhra Pradesh for Dasara are forced to rely on private cabs, which are charging almost double the regular fare. The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) and its Andhra counterpart (APSRTC) are yet to reach a consensus in a standoff about bus routes and operations despite several rounds of talks, and RTC buses are therefore not plying to Andhra Pradesh. This has left passengers in the lurch, forcing them to shell out a lot of money for travelling.
People not wanting to miss celebrating Dasara with their family members in their native towns are boarding private cabs at LB Nagar in Hyderabad, paying Rs 800 per passenger, to take them to Vijayawada. â€śUsually the fare is around Rs 500, but since it is a festival, we are charging Rs 800,â€ť says Ravi, a cab driver.
Sivashankar, a native of Guntur, laments, â€śNormally, for the festival every year I would take a train, but since there is a shortage of trains due to the coronavirus pandemic, I'm taking the cab. The fare is very high, but what else can we do? There are no buses or trains, and we cannot miss the festival either. So, we just have to pay whatever they ask for.â€ť
Sivashankar waiting for the cab
Another passenger, Prasad adds, â€śThe cabs are just dropping us at the Vijayawada bus stand, not even near Benz Circle (a busy junction in Vijayawada where many interstate buses halt). So, I have to take at least two buses from Vijayawada to reach my home.â€ť
Usually, there will be an increase in the volume of passengers travelling to Andhra Pradesh from Telangana during the festival season. However, this time, there is no such spike. The lack of affordable RTC buses, fewer number of trains, and fear due to the coronavirus pandemic could be the reasons.
Interstate bus service between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana has not resumed since the lockdown due to coronavirus was imposed in March. Usually, APSRTC and TSRTC would arrange nearly 3,000 special buses to meet the festival demand. However, due to the standoff between the two regarding bus routes and operations, the interstate services are still not functional.
In a relief, Andhra Pradesh Information and Public Relations Minister Perni Venkataramaiah (Nani) on Saturday evening said that as a special arrangement to accommodate passengers coming from Telangana, APSRTC buses have been organised at all check posts on the Telangana border. The Minister said that people can go to the border check posts to take a bus to their native place.
Earlier, the TSRTC had asked the APSRTC, which operates more buses to Telangana and covers a greater distance in terms of kilometres, to reduce the number of kilometres it operates in Telangana. According to a report, APSRTC was previously operating around 800 buses covering 1.2 lakh kilometres, of which around 600 buses were dedicated to Hyderabad. This was objected to by the TSRTC, which asked the APSRTC to enter into a new interstate agreement, limiting the number of kilometres run by APSRTC buses in Telangana.
â€śTelangana now is insisting on parity in routes, which does not exist in any state agreements,â€ť Principal Secretary (Transport) and APSRTC Vice-Chairman and Managing Director MT Krishna Babu, had told The Hindu earlier this month. With both the parties refusing to make a compromise, the stalemate continues. This has forced people to rely on private transport for the past three months.