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HU's call to discuss BMTC's unjustified bus fare hike

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21 Jun 2013 17:00
Asia/Calcutta
Bus

As you may all be aware, the BMTC has biked bus-fares by 16%, with the minimum rate now Rs 6. BMTC has been increasing the fares steeply every few months and the rate has almost doubled in the last 3 years. As a result even bus-travel has become unaffordable for a large number of people and they are forced to either walk or cut down on other essential expenditure.

Bus users in the city are a huge block (more than 40 lakhs) but as of now there is no voice questioning the BMTCs, unjustified hikes. The most recent hike raises a lot of questions which we need to question the State Government and BMTC on. A meeting has been called for to discuss this hike and what can be done.

Time : 5pm - 7pm, June 21 Friday
Venue : Alternative Law Forum, #122/4, Infantry Road, (ahead of Medinova Diagnostic Centre, next to Sri Balaji Plywoods), Bangalore - 560001.

Various labour unions, groups working with the urban poor, RWAs, student groups and others will be invited to the meeting. The agenda will be to see if we can have collective action to force the government to roll back the hikes and also raise several questions which this hike has raised.

Some of the questions we need to ask the BMTC are:

  • The BMTC cliams the service is running under loss and therefore the hike is required.
  • The first question is what is the source of these losses? Is it that running run-down ordinary buses is causing a loss or is the source elsewhere?
  • BMTC continues to buy expensive Volvos and also offer subsidised tickets to those who can afford a Volvo ticket. This time the volvo rates have not been hiked. The expensive volvos continue to bleed BMTC and then the BMTC cites overall losses to justify the price hike. Why is it that the ordinary bus users have to subsidise the affluent volvo bus users?
  • Why is the BMTC continued to spend hundreds of crores on building TTMCs even after they have been criticized by the the Governments own Directorate of Urban Land transport (http://bangalore.citizenm...) . And then after building these, these are rented out to big corporates like Reliance, Food world etc with relaxed norms - http://www.deccanherald.c...
  • Are the expensive volvos and the TTMCs causing the losses which are being passed on to the passengers of ordinary buses?
  • Secondly, assuming the 'losses' are legitimate, why cannot the state government not subsidise an essential public provision like buses? The Metro is going to make huge losses, but the governments of Karnataka and India are happy to spend 13,000 crores on Phase 1 of the Metro and an estimated 28,000 crores for Phase 2 of the Metro. Can a loss of a few hundred crores not be covered up the state government so that the passengers are spared the steep hike? How can one justify an expense of 40,000 crores or more on the Metro in such a scenario?
  • Related to the earlier question -  Why is that BMTC has to be a profit making entity? Isn't this an essential public provision much like the Public Distribution System or public health? Ever since the erstwhile BTS has become BMTC , profits seem to be the prime motive of this agency, even at the cost of people.

These are just a few questions which need to be raised. We need to discuss these and much more when we meet. Please do make it to the meeting.

Vinay Sreenivasa (ph: 98805 95032)

Comments

murali772's picture

mail exchanges thereof

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Seeing the above call on the Hasiru Usiru Yahoo-group, I immediately responded with:

Whatever, the government monopoly has to remain, right?

To this, KN responded with:
At least I don't think govt. monopoly has to remain - they are just irresponsible and haven't thought it fit to redesign the routes for over 30 years and there are several other short-comings- especially BMTC (formerly BTS).

However, there aren't many good examples of private bus operators either (the TVS example that you quote may be an exception). Those along the KA coastal belt are some of the worst examples - they are just after getting the max trips with max passengers packed in.

In either case, what's needed is a responsible service provider - govt or private. Not sure how that could be achieved or how the service provider could be made accountable and responsive to the customers' needs.


I went back with:
No TVS, nor any respectable business house, will come forward to operate the bus services given today's license-permit-control regime, in the name of the out-dated Contract Carriage Act, Stage Carriage Act, etc. It is only the small-time johnnies, who, together form their own mafia, opt to 'manage' the current situation, leading to the kind of services you have in Mangalore-Udupi areas, as also in Kochi, Kolkata, Delhi, almost everywhere. All the same, they still provide an essential service, which in many places is still better than that provided by govt operators.

Unfortunately, no state appears to have appreciated the need for the organised sector to be facilitated into entering as vital an infrastructure sector as public bus transport services sector yet, leading to the cities being burdened with the much costlier and disruptive options of METRO, BRT, etc. The bus mafia's are not very different from the auto mafia's, and serve the vested interests of the politicos perfectly, apart from the SRTC mafia's over whom the politicos preside (the earlier transport minister fitted the scene to perfection), and that is why the change hasn't happened so far.

Now, of course the private operators cannot run on losses, and if the 'socialistic' mandate is that bus operations should be subsidised, perhaps they have to be run by the state players (well, even if monopolies). But, a government order clearly states that "fixation of fares for special and high end buses (like Volvos) is left to the STUs based on 'market forces' ". So, why should the VOLVO operations remain the monopoly of BMTC? Is it to cross-subsidise the 'Janata' operations? But, the inefficient way they are operating, with empty buses chasing each other many a times, it doesn't look like they are making money there either, even with steep fare increases, and manipulation of the definition of 'stage' (check here). In addition is the deprivation of the aam aadmi of the services of at least 4 ordinary buses for every VOLVO.

So, do you now see a case for inviting the TVS types to take over the VOLVO services, at least? Once that happens, the comparisons will be inevitable, and the BMTC will also have to improve its performance. Otherwise, they will go down like AIR-INDIA ( If Modi becomes the PM, he will close it down; and, for that one reason at least, I hope he does :))) ). But, of course, TVS will want the two earlier mentioned Acts repealed, and a proper regulatory mechanism put in place.

Muralidhar Rao
ALLAHBAKASH's picture

BMTC

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The govt must take all classes to account. Its not fair to raise the bus fair every often. Everyone cant offered it.

ALLAHBAKASH
murali772's picture

Record notes of the meeting of 21st

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Extracted from the mail sent on HU y-group
We have decided to have a follow -up meeting to finalise the demands and the campaign plan. The follow up meeting will be on -

Monday, June 24, 4.30pm
Venue : Alternative Law Forum, Infantry Road

Please do make it to the meeting !

The main points from the meeting are -

  • We had representatives of around 12 organisations who attended the meeting
  • Some basic data about BMTC finances, the rate hike, and government expenditure on BMTC etc was shared (the copy of the presentation that was used is attached (here), it is fairly self explanatory if not fully )
  • It was unanimously decided that we need to have a campaign to demand the full rollback of the hike and that this hike has hit people really hard
  • What was also discussed was that there is no platform for bus-users in the city and hence no voice of the bus-users reaches the state (although all of us are bus-users). There was discussion whether we should use this opportunity to create such a platform
  • Some of the other problems of BMTC were also discussed and whether these shoul;d be included in any demands we make. A few of the problems discussed are are - Lack of transparency in BMTC -in how tickets are priced, what is the loss due to, how much have Volvos contributed to the loss etc; On many routes  Volvos are increasing whether while regular buses are being cut down

Some of the ideas suggested for the campaign to rollback the hikes are -
1)A protest in front of the KSRTC office/Shantinagar bus stand on double road
2)Collecting one rupee donations for BMTC at various bus-stands - this is to shame BMTC
3)Having teams at major bus-stands to  have people sign post-cards which will be sent to the CM asking for roll-back
4)Having a widely announced black day on one day of next week, where we ask people to wear either black shirt/saree/salwar/black band around the forehead etc while travelling in bus, to register their protest

Having a press conference where the above plans will be shared to get more publicity for the protests.

Thanks, Vinay

Of course, no talk of dismantling the monopoly.

Muralidhar Rao
pathykv's picture

Monday, 24th meeting

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I hope to join.

K.V.Pathy

Naveen's picture

Another perspective

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A fare fixation committee that has full access to BMTC's financials is the need of the hour, no doubt, especially for low cost services & more broadly, for all services, including air-conditioned services. This can only be possible if citizen groups demand & force recognition for such a committee since authorities will never give in.

However, I don't agree with the premise that tickets must be subsidized to the extent that BMTC incurs losses, or for that matter any public service incurs losses. Such policies have ruined every other public service, be it power, water or healthcare & PDS. Unless mechanisms are found to eliminate leakages (such as the recent gas policy change or aadhar card), fares will continue to rise in tune with fuel & other costs.

I think the central & state govts' policies are also not consistent & in fact seem lop-sided. Whilst they encourage excessive subsidies for PDS, they continue to penalise RTCs with steep diesel price hikes since they are labelled bulk consumers. If central govt does away with differential pricing of diesel, or provides fuel subsidies for RTCs that are providing urban transport, it will keep a lid on city bus fare hikes. Mumbai's BEST has also been hiking fares for this reason.

Another example is IR, which is bending over backwards to maintain ordinary 2nd class fares without increases - this has been damaging it's financials for decades, but it continues in the same old way since politicians are hell bent on milking every drop from it for votes, economics be damned.

Vasanth's picture

Alternate fuels could help in this matter

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Alternate fuel such as CNG like in Delhi and Mumbai, also Hydrogen like in European cities could help in maintaining affordable fares.

 

murali772's picture

Kerala has it all

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A fare fixation committee that has full access to BMTC's financials is the need of the hour

Kerala has it all already - State Fare Revision Committee, Justice Ramachandran Nair Fare Revision Committee, National Transportation Planning and Research Centre (NATPAC) - all maintained through tax payers' (yours and my) money - check here.

Kerala excels in perpetuating babudom. All that is missing perhaps is the "lal-batti" for each of the members' cars.

Certainly not what I would prescribe, though.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Kerala has it all

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Kerala has it all already

Kerala isn’t an apt comparison. Also, market forces can never be allowed to dictate bus fares in almost any city in the world & this is especially so for Indian cities. Sorry, but I have to mention this again – Indian low cost urban mobility needs do not support private operators for city bus transport governed by fare regimes with both (babus & private bus operators) less interested in customer service than their own welfare. This explains why one sees only shabby buses, racing, bribing, etc. To start with, private operators view the very existence of a fare regime as an undesirable discipline imposing move (echoing your demand for a laissez faire approach towards fare regulation). Hence, they challenge & try to take charge with unions whilst babus try to checkmate them, collect bribes & give in or have been forced to give in, like the story has always been in Mangalore from the very beginning (& probably Kerala too).

We have BMTC whose productivity indicators have been well maintained for long (viz. number of breakdowns per vehicle per km, accidents per bus-km, share of daily trips, etc) – the stats are there & so are reports & the many awards that it has bagged. Thus, the effectiveness of a fare fixation committee would be much better in such a scenario than in cities with private buses since the government stands answerable to the public & cannot point fingers at its own bus corporation.

The citizens have to put pressure on the authorities to have such a committee that must also include members from civic agencies, RWAs, industry, etc. Only then can some form of fare control be exercised & wastefulness (like TTMCs) be exposed - I don't see any other option.

sanjayv's picture

The challenge of the fare fixation committee approach

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I feel there is a significant challenge to fixing fares by committee.  How does one measure or judge the operation efficiency of a corporation.  In a capitalist model, one relies on competition to fix this. Let me give the example of BESCOM.  Currently, KERC fixes fares and everything.  Still, Manivannan sir says that total maintenance funds is a pittance of only 60 crores and that very little maintenace gets done.   Many apartment socienties such as ours maintain our own transformers which are technically BESCOM property.

For fare fixation committees and such to be effective, there is a need for a lot of effort on benchmarking and determination of what the right spends should be.  Not saying that I am confortable with the opther model also, because there is a definite need for an element of subsidy in urban public  transport, I think due to the numerous societal benefits.

That is my 2 cents.

 

 

murali772's picture

solution is there for all to see

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Indian low cost urban mobility needs do not support private operators for city bus transport governed by fare regimes with both (babus & private bus operators) less interested in customer service than their own welfare.

But, this could apply to everything; not just to bus services.

As for BMTC's productivity indicators, and awards, I have my own views. What more needs to be said about it all considering the fact that they managed to get an award even for their TTMC's (check here).

Incidentally, BESCOM too figures fairly high in the merit list of electricity distribution companies across the country, which includes private players, as compared to the ASRTU (association of road transport undertakings) awards, which is only for public sector undertakings. For all of that, Mr Manivannan has repeatedly hinted that there is no future to retaining power distribution in government hands. And Delhi has shown the route too.

And, with privatisation, Delhi-ites are slowly beginning to accept the truer costs (which has gone up by over 50% over the past 5 years - check this), but for much better quality of supply, with even Arvind Kejriwal now toning down his aggression against the power companies. And, following the Delhi lead, all the other utilities across the country too are moving towards truer tariff regimes (though, the govt run ones are not able to match the quality parameters), and slowly the subsidy regime in the sector is set to get dismantled. Well, if the government feels that it needs to afford some concessions to the EWS, all it needs to do is to follow the "direct cash transfer" route through Adhaar.

Pray, why can't that happen with bus transport services? Incidentally, I happened to read the World Bank report, accessible here, once again, and I now begin to think there are enough grounds for a PIL. And, mind you it's Nov '05 report, and even after eight years, we are still debating the fundamentals.

And, for those who believe that a Committee is the answer, I must mention that there has been one in place from long - check here for more on that.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Budget is the problem

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@sanjayv

Agree that serious efforts are needed for a fare fixation committee to be an effective tool, but citizens generally complain & never act or force authorities to give in to such a demand. Even capitalist countries (including US) have subsidies for urban transport – competition does not necessarily fix everything, least of all urban transport as has been the experience worldwide.

GoI’s age-old & outdated policies also need changing urgently. In Bangalore’s context, due to extremely high levels of motorization, there would be very large revenues generated from vehicle & fuel taxation for state and central governments. Fuel tax is far more road-use oriented (i.e. higher the fuel sold within the city, more would be the use of roads within the city, & consequently, more the need for funding & improving public transport, NMT, pedestrian facilities, etc), but it accrues mainly to central government revenues. Proceeds from vehicle & fuel taxes are treated as general tax revenues for state & central governments. Fuel taxation has strong potential for use as a tool for local traffic demand management & improving services & facilities, but since the state /city do not have much control (since central govt budgets all such funds with an overall “aggregate” approach), a very useful instrument is rendered locally unavailable or minimally available.

Further, budgets allocated for public road transport & subsidy, road /pedestrian /NMT facilities (maintenance & improvements) are usually just a small fraction of the amounts collected as vehicle and fuel taxes and are not related to road use nor vehicle increases - both growth sectors. Municipal revenues (through property tax collection, etc) are grossly insufficient. Thus, whilst funds needed keep increasing, budgets available bear no relationship & are not directly aligned with the demand side (i.e. vehicle and fuel sales have no bearing on urban transport budget allocations).

Central & state govts dishing out funding in other ways (i.e. through state budgets and through national programs like mega-cities scheme, urban challenge fund and JNNURM recently) have all proved to be highly inefficient since none closely correspond to the demand side nor are used to improve urban transport in the best ways possible.

One possible way to rectify this would be to de-link vehicle and fuel tax revenues from state /central budgets (at least a fair percentage of it that is necessary locally for cities) and create a closed loop to fund city urban transport challenges. If separate annual budgets are created for each city, it could fund urban transport, pedestrian /NMT & road maintenance far more efficiently. This subject is of course beyond the decision making reach of states or cities since GoI’s rigidities are a formidable barrier to change – the problems really start from there.

murali772's picture

the demand now is different

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Also, market forces can never be allowed to dictate bus fares in almost any city in the world & this is especially so for Indian cities.

The following is an extract from my post of the 21st, above:

But, a government order clearly states that "fixation of fares for special and high end buses (like Volvos) is left to the STUs based on 'market forces' ". So, why should the VOLVO operations remain the monopoly of BMTC? Is it to cross-subsidise the 'Janata' operations? But, the inefficient way they are operating, with empty buses chasing each other many a times, it doesn't look like they are making money there either, even with steep fare increases, and manipulation of the definition of 'stage' (check here). In addition is the deprivation of the aam aadmi of the services of at least 4 ordinary buses for every VOLVO.

So, I have changed tack. I am now demanding opening up of the high-end services for competition. Why should anyone have a problem there?

Let the government continue its efforts at meeting the social obligations, or what goes on in its name.

Muralidhar Rao
pathykv's picture

Bus fares

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BMTC should be bifurcated or a seperate Corporation formed for running luxury class buses. BMTC should concentrate on providing economic ordinary (Janata) buses and take subsidy from Govt., JNNURM etc. in the interest of the poorer strata of commuters. This will avoid  cross subsidising luxury services by ordinary bus commuters.

K.V.Pathy

murali772's picture

tempo building up for a PIL

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Response from Mr TV to my posting of a link to the debate in a Google-group:

I agree with u . If volvos are run on a business model ( market forces) Government should privatize  this segment so that private guys will do market survey to provide good connectivity for volvo users . I am a customer for volvo . If there is good connectivity of volvo buses, whether they are  private or BMTC,  I  would sell my car which is creator of stress due to traffic particularly for senior citizens, apart from being  expensive. V should promote volvos so that car users may switch to volvo buses thus reducing traffic . If a volvo bus takes 40 passengers say from  R.T.Nagar to M.G.Road  it may prevent close to 40 cars plying on the road . I have been stressing this point for the last 6 to 7  years to BMTC. BMTC is running fairly efficiently . However it's  marketing skills to promote volvo has never been there .

I consider this matter as important for proper development of the city as Namma Railu.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

a token effort

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Over 100 people gathered on the K H Road in front of the Shanthinagar TTMC demanding that the BMTC roll back the hike in fares and step up efforts to curb sexual harassment of women on buses. Raising slogans and marching towards the BMTC headquarters, members of Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike urged the BMTC to organise a consultation with the public. - - - However, Parvez (MD, BMTC) categorically said there was no possibility of a fare rollback. “People have accepted the hike. It is the last resort of BMTC and is done only when our sustainability is affected,” he told Express.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

Looks essentially a token effort. If the Vedike is genuinely interested in helping the people, the answer perhaps lies here.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanth's picture

Lokasatta event

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The recent bus fare hike is unfair. It effects the poor the most.

All over the world and in many other cities in India, public transport is subsidized. We must do the same here in Bangalore.

Loksatta Party is organizing a protest meeting against recent unfair hike of BMTC and KSRTC bus fares, this Saturday near Shanthi Nagar Bus Stand, Bangalore. These fare hikes and other price raises of food and commodities is going to be norm of the day because of mis-governance and corruption, and it is going to hithard both middle classes and BPL folks alike. 

We need to protest against these mindless, incompetent and unjust acts of officials and elected representatives and demand roll back of price hike.

We will start distributing the fliers from 10 am in and around Shanthi Nagar Bus Stand, and then assemble in front of Sarige Bhavana (on Double Road itself) and have a meeting and submit a memorandum to the authorities.

Date: 06-07-13, Saturday, 10 AM

Venue: Shanthi nagar Bus Stand (TTMC), Double Road (K.H Road), Bangalore.

To volunteer or if you need information
96860 80005, 76765 57788, 93433 88188

Please help spread the word and bring your friends along!

 

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