Scores of private buses halt services in Kerala due to rising fuel prices

Close to 500 buses from Kozhikode are going out of service as owners face big losses due to rising fuel costs.
Scores of private buses halt services in Kerala due to rising fuel prices
Scores of private buses halt services in Kerala due to rising fuel prices

Kerala's transport sector is witnessing a massive setback with hundreds of private buses from a number of districts ending services due to soaring fuel costs. In Kozhikode, the district with the most number of plying private buses, close to 500 buses have applied for G forms to halt services due to increase in diesel prices.

"From Kozhikode, Vadakara and Koilady (different parts of Kozhikode district) around 500 buses out of the 1200 buses in Kozhikode have applied to halt services. Most owners are facing losses after diesel prices reached Rs 80,” said Thulasi Das, General Secretary of Kozhikode Bus Owners Association.

The owners have filed what is called a G-form at the RT office to appeal to halt services of their buses. They will resume services when the fuel prices have come down.  

"Each day I pay Rs 2500 on labour charges and Rs 20 every day on stand rent. Every three months, I pay tax upto Rs 34,000 and welfare fund of Rs 3,150. Apart from this, Rs 60,000 goes as insurance premium for my bus every year. Added to this is the fuel price increase which ends up with Rs 10,000 spent on every long distance trip made. At the end of this, I end up spending Rs 500 to 700 more than I receive from the bus. We can't increase ticket prices as people won't buy then. Due to this, some of us have ended up pawning their wives' jewellery in order to pay taxes in the coming months," Thulasi Das added.

Like Thulasi Das, several bus owners in the state have decided to resume services only when the diesel prices have reduced, as the business has ceased to be viable for them. However, the owners association is still thankful to the government for bringing in incentives to help their business survive.

"The state government extended the lifetime of buses by five years. Earlier we had to stop driving the bus after 15 years but now they have made it 20 years. The government also allowed us 45 days time to pay our taxes without charging us a fine for the same. The centre is responsible for controlling the diesel prices in a way that doesn't affect the transport industry," Thulasi added.

According to reports, over 3,000 buses out of the 12,000 ones in service have been stopped due to rising prices.  

"We have around 100 buses in Thrissur that have stopped plying due to fuel price rise. Within Thrissur town, it takes about 10-15 litres of fuel to go around. Most buses carry students (students fares are cheaper) and now it's come to a point where we need to have 85 students on board in order to make enough money to fill 1 litre of diesel. I feel the government must step in a protect this industry from collapsing. They have to subsidise diesel and implement protective schemes to sustain the industry," said Anto Francis. General Secretary of Bus Operators Association in Thrissur.

Speaking to TNM, RTO of Kozhikode Sasikumar confirmed that applications to halt services are coming in from bus owners.

"We have been getting a higher number of applications for stoppage from bus owners in the district. The number is more than the usual applications we receive. This could be due to the fuel price increase and the lack of profitability that the bus owners are currently facing," he said.

Once the buses are halted, the owners will not have to pay tax on the vehicles for the months in which the bus is out of service. Taxes will be charged from the month the owners resume operations.

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