West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra today ruled out hike in bus fare in the state despite an ultimatum by the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, one of the major operators' bodies in the state. Mitra, however, agreed to cooperate with the operators in getting bank loans for new vehicles. "The government is not in a position to accept their demand, but we are ready to help the operators otherwise," the minister said. The JCBS had issued an ultimatum to the state government demanding a positive decision on bus fare hike within August 9. "We are now fighting for our survival in the trade.
We urged the government to take a decision within August 9 for hike in bus fares, otherwise we shall announce our next course of action the next day," JCBS General Secretary Sadhan Das said after his meeting with the minister yesterday. Since the bus fare hike last time, Das said there was a hike in diesel price by Rs 19 per litre in nine instalments. "But the bus operators are yet to get any hike in bus fares despite their cooperation with state government," he said. Stating that 30 per cent of the 35,000 buses in the state under the JCBS had already withdrawn vehicles failing to run the fleet properly, Das said more buses were likely to be withdrawn if there was no hike in bus fares immediately. The minister, however, said the state government would soon deploy 600 to 700 Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) buses in different routes to cope with the situation. To a question, Mitra said the bus operators make losses because of acquisition of their vehicles by the poll panels during election time. "Government is not responsible for that. Poll panels should benefit the operators adequately or have their own arrangement," he added.