If people find travel in Bengaluru hard in the absence of a proper BMTC bus service, they don't have it any better while travelling to places outside it with the KSRTC too proving inefficent. The private bus operators, who have stepped in, may offer a more frequent service, but often fleece passengers and employ rash and negligent drivers. Worse, they are said to be hand-in-glove with the RTO, which looks the other way, leaving passengers at their mercy. Nischit N. reports
If an efficient public bus service continues to elude the city, things are not much better for those travelling long distance from it. During the recent festive season, officers of the Regional Transport Office (RTO) booked over 500 cases against private buses operating long distance for various violations.
Says an RTO officer, “Private buses which ply to destinations like Kolar, Mulbagal, Hoskote, Chintamani, Nelamangala, Doddaballapur, Tumakuru and surrounding places, are responsible for the most violations. They neither have proper permits and nor are the buses properly maintained. They also drive recklessly and carry excess luggage. We do carry out a drive against them once in a while, but they get away by merely paying a fine and continue to operate as always.”
Unfortunately, the private buses are not just a nuisance on the highways leading from Bengaluru to cities around it, but to traffic on its roads too where they pick up and drop passengers. Their reckless driving and haphazard parking have caused much heartburn among commuters on the roads, but neither the traffic police nor the Regional Transport Offices (RTO) care to put a stop to either.
Besides carrying excess luggage, the private bus operators often over- charge passengers in the absence of any regulations on their fares. And several private buses with contract carriage permits pick up passengers en-route in violation of the law, according to transport officers. Not only private buses, but buses run by various companies too randomly pick up passengers after duty hours to make a quick buck, they reveal.
In fact, a report from the Upalokayukta’s office submitted to the state transport department in 2017 says that it found around 1,900 contract carriage buses and 2,700 all- India permit buses violating the Motor Vehicles Act and urged it to put a stop to the practice.
The Upalokayukta inquiry was conducted following a complaint that state transport authorities were themselves issuing transport permits and licences in contravention of the law to the private operators, according to official sources.
Transport officials agree that unless the RTO and transport department take strict action against them, the private buses will continue to be a law unto themselves. “There should be stricter rules in place providing for cancelling of their permits permanently to make sure they fall in line,” underlines an officer.
A senior traffic police officer believes the private buses should be confined to the outskirts of the city during peak hours. “We always have a problem with these private buses as they drive rashly and park anywhere they like. They are often seeing racing with government buses to pick up passes, putting the lives of other motorists at risk. The government should introduce a rule to ban the entry of these buses into the city in peak hours,” he says.
Ask a senior RTO officer about this suggestion and he reveals there are plans already to ban private buses travelling long distance from entering the city. As for the high fares they charge their passengers, he says they claim they have no choice owing to the rising price of fuel and taxes. “It is time that the transport department framed rules for these operators and ensured that they follow it,” he stresses, adding that the traffic police and the RTOs need to join hands to monitor them.
Unruly, overpriced, but commuters’ first choice
They may often fleece them, drive recklessly and carry excess baggage, but people still prefer the private bus services to government as their frequency is higher and they can be confident of reaching their destinations on time when travelling by them. Mr Manirathnam Selva, a mathematics lecturer in a reputed college, who travels from Kolar Gold Fields to his workplace in the city every day, complains that the KSRTC buses are not as regular as the private and their frequency often drops in the early and late hours of the day. “So we have no choice but to opt for the private buses as there are numerous plying to the city,” he explains. While some complain about their high fares, Mr Selva finds the private buses more reasonable than the KSRTC. “We are aware that the private buses are not safe, as they drive rashly but they take us where we want to go on time and do not have several stops en route. If a KSRTC bus takes one hour to reach its destination, a private bus takes around 45 minutes,” he says, adding that if the KSRTC improves the frequency of its buses people will opt for them. “There are many employees coming to the city from outside for work, but in the absence of regular government bus services, their only option are the private buses. The government is aware of this , but is doing nothing about it,” he rues. One private bus operator, Shankar Reddy, who runs two private buses from City Market to Kolar, agrees that some private buses have no valid permits and are driven rashly, but claims the real problem is the nexus between them and the RTO officials. “If the RTO officials take strict action against such operators, everything will fall into place,” he maintains. As for the high fares charged by private buses, he claims this is true only on the weekends and the festive season. “When fuel costs go up and taxes rise, we need to charge the passengers more. The KSRTC too increases its fares whenever the price of fuel goes up. But only we are questioned,” he protests, regretting that although the private bus operators have asked the transport department to constitute a body to fix the fares, it has shown no interest in the matter.