‘Resume public transport in J&K on priority for saving livelihood, economy’

JAMMU, May 7: A keynote was addressed by Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road, Transport, Highways & MSME on Thursday through a webinar being organized by BOCI (Buses & Car Operators Confederation of India), wherein panelists and participants from Transport background actively participated.

PK Vaid, a renowned & leading Private Bus operator from J&K, stated “This year in January, the MoRTH has expressed its willingness to allow the luxury AC private vehicles to ply on regular routes between cities, intra-state and intra-districts, so that the vehicle load could be reduced. This thing will allow the passengers to avail the comfort, luxury and convenience within the state itself, as these vehicles are mostly All-India tourist permit vehicles, which are not allowed by the regional and state transport authorities to operate on regular routes as per state-carriage Motor Vehicles Act & Rules, 1988 in most of the states.”

“J&K UT shall atleast allow these vehicles to get permission from Transport commissioner’s office to ply on regular routes within J&K for next 1 year, till the situation turns normal,” he said.

Other transport company owner, Nanak Singh, Chairman Public Transport Company, J&K, expressed “It is high time for the Transport Ministry to urge the Finance Ministry to allow the extension period of 3 months for the insurances due for transport operators and also reduce the premium to be paid for the next 2 years in order to compensate the losses. Rather, the Govt. should devise the strategy to provide a financial package in terms of rebate, if not exemption, from all taxes such as Token-tax, Permit renewal fees, fitness fee, passenger tax etc. for next 3 Financial years. Govt. should announce salary incentives for drivers & conductors for the registered private operators for next 6 months, as most of this class who drives the state carriage buses are more dependent on daily trips rather than the meagre salary earned from bus owners.”

In another interaction with the Jammu-Katra Deluxe buses fleet owner, Jugal Gandotra urged “That Transport ministry should provide subsidy/rebate to bus operators for paying various Toll Taxes for regular routes in J&K, which comes under NHAI. The Govt. should immediately lay down guidelines for public transport such as social distancing measures, sanitation of vehicles, face masks compulsory for passengers etc.”

He reiterated that if the Central Govt. is planning to raise the fuel price in near future, as being done recently in other states as well, along with the 50% capping for seating capacity in buses, then the fare has to be increased by almost 60-80%, for the next 6 months, otherwise even the operators would not be able to cover even the fuel expenses as well, leaving apart other maintenance and repair costs.

PK Vaid , the transport operator, suggested measure for reviving public transport “In phase wise, few regular routes could be opened in green & orange zones with plying time restrictions up to 5 PM only and even, the conductor/operator staff (after being duly trained and certified by Health Department), while booking/boarding the passengers, should use infrared thermometer and to allow only those passengers to board the bus, whose temperatures are well below prescribed limits.

The operator has to maintain the database of those passengers and submit the same to RTOs on weekly basis.

Also, the Govt. could deploy checkers for stopping the buses randomly on routes and verifying the authenticity of the passengers’ details obtained by conductors, as a precautionary measure. Since, the operators would already be operating on low capacity for next few months, the exercise would not create any hassle thereof.

All the relevant stakeholders from JK UT Administration should turn pro-active and start turning the wheels around, as further delay would definitely hamper growth of other sectors such as Education, Medical, manufacturing Industry etc where manpower mobility is involved. Sooner or later, the epidemic has to vanish but the losses anticipated, not even for the business community but for the Administration, due to any further sluggish efforts would have a remarkable effect on our minds and economy.

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