NEW DELHI: Interstate bus services are yet to gather pace even as the Centre has relaxed mobility restrictions for people.
The fourth phase of the lockdown, that started 18 May, allowed interstate movement of passenger vehicles and buses, with mutual consent from states and union territories (UTs). The intrastate movement of these vehicles was left to the states’ discretion.
Medical professionals, nurses and paramedical staff were exempt from both inter-and intrastate restrictions.
Prakash Sangam, chief executive officer (CEO) of online bus ticketing platform, redBus, said most states are yet to allow movement of buses across borders. This, despite the fact that the capacity for reserved tickets on government and private buses is as much as 360 million per year or just under 1 million per day.
“With intracity travel opening up only in some states and inter-city bus travel yet to start, the transactions are virtually next to nothing, impacting the livelihood of thousands of bus operators and lakhs of people employed in this sector,” said Sangam.
Though the government has given states the option to allow the movement of private cars and public transport across the state, rules are not uniform across the country.
Limited mobility has not only reduced the number of choices for those who wish to travel to a different city, but has also put small bus operators under severe financial stress.
Karnataka-based bus operator Ashwin Manoharan said small bus operators were particularly under pressure as their cash reserves depleted quickly. “We have already made payments for monthly toll tax, quarterly road tax, which we were not able to utilise during the lockdown and have continued to pay salaries to our staff,” Manoharan said.
“Air-conditioned buses are not allowed to ply (according to government rules), and people want to avoid non-AC vehicles. The current rules are not favouring small private operators like us,” Manoharan added.
“None of the buses have started on the ground. Neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu have restricted entry of buses and also have strict quarantine rules. As a result, the bus drivers will also have to be quarantined,” he added.
Maharashtra has the same story. “We hope that the government will allow buses to operate in full capacity from next month. May and June are very crucial for our business, as 70% of income comes in these two months,” said a bus operator in the state.