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The Challenged Private Sector

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Bus

Private bus operators at Kalasipalyam, who have been transporting commuters for about 60 years now, still await the day they will get a separate bus stand. There are about 250 private buses that ply daily between the City Market and nearby Hosur, Kolar, Magadi, Tumkur and Chikballapur.

The Kalasipalyam bus stand is crying for attention. Harried commuters trying to make their way through the chaos created by the KSRTC, BMTC and private buses, operating from the same area, point at the need for a major overhaul. But it seems like the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is in no hurry to do anything.

“The Kalasipalyam bus stand space belongs to the BBMP. We expected that the remodelling of the Shantinagar bus depot into a full-fledged bus terminus would pave way for the rejuvenation of the bus stand and also a new one for private bus operators here. Unfortunately, a separate bus stand for us has not materialised so far,” said G V Chandrashekar, proprietor, Vinayaka Motors Service. The erstwhile Bangalore City Corporation used to collect a fee of Rs 5 per day from each bus operator for using the stand. However, for the last two years no fee is being collected.

“Under the Municipal Corporation Act, it is the duty of the corporation to provide basic civic amenities at bus stands, as it is a public place (according to the Motor Vehicles Act). They have a right to collect bus stand fee provided they maintain it,” observed Ashwath Narayan, manager in a transport company.

The Transport Department that issues state carriage permits to these private buses renews it every five years. That apart, in spite of the private bus operators paying quarterly road tax and other ‘hidden taxes’ to various departments, the operators are deprived of a decent bus terminal. “Despite having valid permits, we end up spending Rs 3,000 monthly as bribes to various departments like the police, the RTO and squads. Operators who don’t have valid permits, would be shelling out double the amount,” informed Shankar, a private bus operator.

If the bus operators are having a bad time, it is not any easier on the commuters. Unhygienic, unkempt surroundings, with no provision for basic amenities greet commuters here. “The situation gets worse when it rains. The stand looks like a dirt track and it’s impossible to board a bus. People even skid and fall. The authorities are least bothered about safety,” fumed Rekha, a commuter.

Authorityspeak: Speaking to The Express, BBMP Commissioner S Subramanya said that the collection of bus stand fee at Kalasipalyam was suspended as it was to be repaired under a Public-Private Partnership initiative. “The renovation plan was prepared and the project was tendered for the same. However, the previous government didn’t clear the project,” the commissioner added. When asked about the separate bus terminal for private operators, Subramanya said that alternative arrangements have to be made for the KSRTC and the BMTC. “The government should take the decision on this matter. Then only we can provide a designated bus stand for private buses,” he said.

For the full text, click on:

http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=Spaced+out+in+Kalasipalyam&artid=ypRpgHs2h7s=&SectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&MainSectionID=wIcBMLGbUJI=&SectionName=UOaHCPTTmuP3XGzZRCAUTQ==&SEO=

Muralidhar Rao

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psaram42's picture

The ball is in the Governments court as per BBMP Commissioner

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The Original article as reported is important as a reference, for which the link is sufficient.

The article is well written. Suspending the fee 2 years earlier is an admission by BBMP of their failure in this case. Though BBMP is doing excellent job in many areas much more effort in planning to maintain basic standards, in this case would have been appreciated.


Providing a proper bus stand is the responsibility of BBMP. A mere claim of the Government not taking action is not a good enough answer. Dr. Subramanya probably can do better than putting the ball in other court, in this specific case.

The article gives a very bleak commentary of the plight of Commuters, Private operators, the tax payer, the BBMP, the government and all of us.
murali772's picture

let everyone have the choice

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About restricting the movement of private vehicles on nationalised routes, the Minister said that the government had filed an affidavit stating that it would introduce 1,600 new buses to meet the requirement in the event of private buses being banned from these routes.

Defending his decision to allow KSRTC buses to ply in Mangalore district, Ashok said that the private transporters’ lobby had been opposing the move as it would hurt their interests. “But people have welcomed it as we have given them a choice,” Ashok said.

For the full story, click on:

http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=Maxicabs+to+stay+out+of+city&artid=J/NShhsLRlE=&SectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&MainSectionID=Qz/kHVp9tEs=&SEO=maxicabs,+Bangalore,+congestion&SectionName=UOaHCPTTmuP3XGzZRCAUTQ==

 

Likewise, people in other areas (where government operators enjoy a monopoly) will also welcome the choice between the government operations and private operations? Why can't the minister accept that?

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

dismal state across the country

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The West Bengal scene
Private bus operators in West Bengal are demanding a nearly 60 per cent increase in fares to cope with the hike in fuel prices. The operators may also resort to a strike if fares are not revised. - - “We are eagerly waiting for a positive decision on fare hike by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee before October 29. No fruitful decision may lead to an indefinite strike thereafter,” Deepak Sarkar, Vice-President of Bengal Bus Syndicate, said. - - - Tapan Banerjee, joint secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate, said the chief minister promised the operators of a fare hike at a meeting on October 8. He added it would be “a natural death” of the private bus transport system in the State without an immediate hike in fares. - - - “Diesel price has been increased by 45 per cent here since 2009. So, the fares should go up accordingly. We are not taking the higher operating cost into account,” Sarkar said. - - - -Both the operators’ associations control about 95 per cent of the 42,000-odd private buses plying across the State.

Banerjee said of the 685-odd buses under JNNURM scheme (operated on a public private partnership basis), more than 350 buses were already off the roads. This has been attributed to the widening gap between fares and higher operating costs of these buses. - - - West Bengal is the only State that operates JNNURM buses through PPP route. - - - “Minimum fare for the buses running under JNNURM scheme should be increased from Rs 5 to Rs 8 (for non-AC category) with immediate effect,” he said.


For the full report in The Hindu, click here

The Kerala scene
The district unit of Bus Operators’ Organisation has decided to join the indefinite bus strike called by State coordination committee of private bus owners from the midnight of October 29 to protest against the State government’s refusal to proportionately increase bus fare to match the increase in diesel price.K. Radhakrishnan, general secretary of the organisation, announced here on Saturday that bus services had ceased to be viable after the last increase in diesel price and the State government’s failure to increase bus fares to meet the sharp rise in expenses for operating buses.- - - -“We have been operating services at a loss in the last one month, hoping the government will raise bus fares. But it has not happened,” Radhakrishnan said.

For the full report in The Hindu, click here

Neither can the government do a proper job of running the bus services, as evident from here and here, nor will they allow the private operators to do a proper job, largely because of their indicisiveness, linked to Socialist posturings. Meanwhile, the citizens, as also the economy as a whole, suffer.

Public bus transport services is constantly gaining in importance as a very key infrastructure sector, whose efficient and cost-effective operation, is a major contributor to the liveability factor, in both urban and rural areas. And, it is also becoming increasingly clear that the burgeoning demand, both in terms of variety as well as as quantity, can't be met by government monopolies alone, any longer. Whereas this fact should generally have been a no-brainer, both the government as well as the public, have however been living in a denial mode all these years, the resulting dismal state affecting every other aspect of the economy too in its wake. Very clearly, such a situation is no longer affordable now, and therefore, perhaps time the Civil Society in each of the affected states came together to demand the setting up of properly empowered regulatory bodies to take quick decisions, as also to provide a level playing field to the private players, as compared to the position existing now, so that the whole sector evolves to a new high, quite like in the case of civil aviation, telecom, etc.

And, of course, Karnataka can provide the lead. So, that's another petition coming, then.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

A Raja - Ponty Chadha connection

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Even before he (Ponty Chadha) died this private foray into public buses was turning sour. With public-private partnerships (PPPs) becoming the country’s favourite pastime, it is important to ask if we really understand how to create and sustain essential public infrastructure for the relatively poor and middle class. In other words, how do we work with private enterprise for facilities to keep costs affordable—often through public subsidy or through innovative fiscal management?

For the full report by Sunita Narain in 'Down To Earth', click here

It is the keen competition between big timers like TATA, Reliance, Airtel, etc that brought the phone and call rates down to a level where it was the cheapest in the world, and affordable to even the lowest of low-lie aam aadmi, leading to a revolution of a kind where everyone benefited, including the economy. This resulted out of the then policy of incentivising such players through a "moderate license fee combined with revenue-sharing" formula. Seeing the potential, many other big names too joined the band-wagon, some teaming up with global players from across the world. If not for a A Raja messing around at this stage, and causing the emasculation of the TRAI, our telecom sector would very likely have evolved into the most robust model, compared to any in the world. Well, even with the way things have evolved, our telecom sector is still rateable perhaps at 'not too bad', on a global comparison.

Now, imagine if the sector was still the monopoly of BSNL. Our rating would perhaps have been 'pathetic', if the scale provided for it at all.

The analogy applies equally to the public bus transport services sector too, as also any other sector, for all their individual peculiarities.

Now, there are at least two cities that I know of where the private sector is doing a fairly good job of providing public bus transport services - Kochi and Mangalore. But, the government's license-permit raaj, apart from the respective neta-babu combos' desperation to impose state monopoly, which they can then milk, is slowly leading to the services in these two cities also going the way of Bangalore, and other cities, where the government monopoly service providers are largely the vehicle for siphoning off JnNURM funds into netas' pockets (check this).

It is surprising that the Sunita Narains of this world can't see through all of these, but instead choose to make snide remarks (terming PPPs pastime etc) targeted at the Corporate sector. The question she should be asking is "can as important and vital an infrastructure sector as public bus transport services do without the participation of the big players"? The answer being a clear 'no', she has then to push the government into coming up with the right kind of models to facilitate their entry (Like I have repeatedly stated, my first exposure to the name TVS was as a bus service provider in the city of Madurai, and the late Sri T V Sundaram Iyengar's scions who are today cluttering the roads with their bikes, will be more than happy to go back to their forefathers' business, and help de-clutter the cities, provided the government creates the right climate for the same).

The so-called "relatively poor and middle-class" who raise objections when the private players request the government for nominal upward revisions of fares consequent on their input costs going up, are the same lot who spend over Rs 100/- a day on their phone chats even as the bus they are sitting in takes them some 10 Km for less than Rs 10/- even. For the genuine commuters, who earn a minimum of Rs 20/- an hour in a city, an hour saved through good bus connectivity, is time they can they put to more productive use, including spending the same with the family. If you take the cost of alternate means of commuting for want of good connectivity (auto's in cities), the family commute budget could then exceed even the food budget. As such, most genuine commuters will be more than happy to pay an additional Rs 5/- per day on their commute, for good connectivity, which is more than what the private players are asking for.

The Ponty Chadha's enter the picture because you have the likes of A Raja making the decisions.

Muralidhar Rao
raghunandan85's picture

I dont understand why the

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I dont understand why the Govt. is fixing the fare for private players at all. Im not familiar with the system in force in Mangalore and Kochi, maybe someone can post a short synopsys.

As I understand, the additional Rs5 doesnt improve the service or commute time since its just to cover increased costs.


murali772's picture

state in the wrong role

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@ raghunandan85

I dont understand why the Govt. is fixing the fare for private players at all.

That's what the licence-permit raaj is all about - check this

Im not familiar with the system in force in Mangalore and Kochi, maybe someone can post a short synopsys.

For more on Kochi bus services, click here. And, for the challenge by the challenged Mangalore operators, click here.

As I understand, the additional Rs5 doesnt improve the service or commute time since its just to cover increased costs.

Yes, today, it is just for their survival. For good services, you need to have a variety of them, and you can't say that they shouldn't be making profits (reasonable) out of doing it - check here for more. Either way, the VRL's, Kallada's etc are making huge profits out of inter-state operations, while providing decent services, competing effectively against the mediocre Railways or the state RTC operations.

Muralidhar Rao
raghunandan85's picture

Thanks Murali - I think I

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Thanks Murali - I think I understand how private operators are managed in other cities. As a start for Bangalore

1) Allow private to run Volvo buses on few high density routes, say on the ORR=Hebbal-KRPuram-SilkBoard or ElectronicsCity-SilkBoard.
2) Govt. should not mandate the fare. Maybe a maximum fare, if it feels the need to have a cap (say at 2x BMTC). Allow private operators to revise fare every 3 months. These fares must be published.
3) Private operators are allowed to differentiate their service. For example, by offering sitting only Volvos, late night services .etc.
4) Private buses marked clearly to differentiate them from BMTC.
5) Charge a minimal license fee to cover administration costs. Allow them to use the Hebbal bus depot at extra cost.
6) No upper limit on number of operators allowed, to prevent cartels. There is no need to limit competition.

The additional Volvos will definitely be a welcome addition on ORR. If a private operator can run efficiently and charge less than BMTC, that would be awesome. Differentiated services can attract some car/bike commuters who might like the extra comfort.

Im not sure if normal buses are lucrative for private operators. Also, they might not be willing to run buses to non-profitable outskirts of Bangalore. Im pretty sure BMTC cross-subsidises these routes with profits from others. Allowing private operators throughout the city means that they can run buses on only the profitable routes and deprive BMTC of the profits needed to maintain connectivity to suburbs.

Naveen's picture

Falsehood again

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there are at least two cities that I know of where the private sector is doing a fairly good job of providing public bus transport services - Kochi and Mangalore.

This claim about “good job” by private bus operators in Mangalore is bogus & untrue - praja readers are being repeatedly misled. Some frivolous claim about ‘good’ private bus services by a powerful bus owner (like ballal) is often quoted to substantiate this argument even when there are several far more reliable commuter opinions for reference.

Please check this link & related official news reports as also this news item from Deccan Herald.

Being from Mangalore, I know that commuters hate private bus services in the city & are fed up of rash driving, accidents, poor coverage, being forced to change buses at the whims & fancies of the bus drivers & conductors, etc.

This has now become so bad that it is not acceptable any more. Almost all commuter groups are demanding KSRTC services to run in parallel since private buses have become highly unreliable & risky.

The private bus owners-RTO-neta combo are unfortunately very strong & have thwarted all attempts to bring in regulated services by KSRTC.

murali772's picture

pick your choice

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@ raghunandan85 - Well, things can't be done in some arbitrary fashion. All of these call for policy changes, which is what is the demand here.

And, as for Naveen's comments, please also read the comments by others in the same blog as he has provided the link to. There is very little to add there as of now.

The following excerpts from Sunita Narain's article, cited in my post of 4th Dec (above - accessible readily here), indicate the jam we are all stuck in because of continued dependence on public sector in this vital infrastructure area, or the half-hearted attempts made at involving the private sector:

This was the model that Ponty’s company bid for. But all was not well. Private operators with little incentive to meet the tough service conditions prefer to cut corners. The Delhi government had already issued a penalty notice against Ponty for non-compliance with its agreement. Where does the city go from here? We better find answers because there is no alternative to public transport. Car exhaust is already taking a toll on our lungs.

So, what are the answers available? There are those who believe that government and government alone should provide the services, irrespective of whatever their past records, or their capacity to undertake the task, and would therefore suggest reverting to the earlier position of government providing the service.

Well, I am certainly not one of them, for the simple reason that whereas you can correct the wrongs in systems involving private players, through policy, regulatory and other changes, in the case of systems involving government players (particularly monopoly ones at that), it is well nigh impossible to do so. And, marginal changes won't be enough today; what is needed is quantum changes. As such, I am all for proper policy changes to attract the big players, with the entire game duly overseen by a properly constituted regulatory body.

You can pick your choice, and may be campaign for it too, if you feel strongly enough for the cause.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Bluff is the issue

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I am all for proper policy changes to attract the big players

How does desire for a policy justify the hoax & attempts to falsely paint the existing lot of crap private operators as 'good'? How does it justify ignoring the multitude of commuters’ complaints against private operators & their very poor records? & going all out to take cognizance of some private bus owner's statement as gospel truth & repeatedly trying to sell it on praja?

Naveen's picture

More bullcrap

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please also read the comments by others in the same blog as he has provided the link to. There is very little to add there as of now.

Whose comments are you referring to? Are there hordes of people clapping the so-called "good" private operators there? Or scores of commentators denouncing the govt operators? Just one solitary person that described about some pvt operator who picks up garment workers in time! I'm not surprised that you are trying to trick people here again, claiming this as sufficient proof for you to argue about the so-called greatness of private bus operators. What a sham!

It's high time you call off your bluff - and what happened to your so-called "petition" to end monopoly? Flopped again? Or did you close it pre-maturely since there were too few hits?

Naveen's picture

Selective pickings as usual

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The following were also part of Sunita Narain's article that you pointed to, & it isn't surprising that you did not touch upon these details in your argument to hoodwink others of so-called perfection with your free bus privatization theory.

The only competitor is the informal bus service, like the infamous blueline service of Delhi, which operate on a shoestring budget and offer poor service. But people use them out of compulsion and its economics works because of low overheads and because it has a single owner. This poorly functioning PPP model thrives.

Bengaluru runs the most efficient operations, which cost Rs 30 per km, while the service in Mumbai costs close to Rs 60 per km, without accounting capital costs.

But in any revenue model there will be a deficit. The costs (particularly if the capital is added) will be higher than what can be recovered, especially in a market pre-determined by cheap private transport options. The service will have to be topped up with public subsidy or some form of innovative financing.

murali772's picture

why this kolaveri?

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Well, like it has been stated before, more than the neta's and babu's, it is the people who are largely to blame for the way things are. And, as long as they can't bother to raise the demand for release from the strangle-hold of the monopoly government service providers, they will continue to be served the 'at-best a mediocre fare' they are presently getting.

Admittedly, my petition hasn't gathered enough support. But, apart from one lone voice (which has now turned almost virulent), whose owner can't seem to think of anything other than government providing bus services, the opposition of the others, where they exist, are based largely on an improper understanding of the why's of the short-comings in the Mangalore and Kochi services. My effort has been to bring about awareness on these aspects, and necessary changes therefrom, in this key infrastructure sector, for the benefit of all concerned. The process is slow; but that doesn't deter me. Perhaps, I need to re-work the petition.

There are certain natural monopoly areas - like power supply. Even there, the private sector has taken root in a big way (check this), and the sector is moving towards achieving an equitable standing, with the regulatory regime evolving simultaneously too. I can't see why that can't happen in bus services.

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Reality & Imagination

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People will certainly make demands if they see merit & think private operations can do better, but they know that unionism, high handedness, coverage, schedules & safety will all be far worse than with govt services. Improper understanding is not the reason for demand for KSRTC services in Mangalore – everyone there knows well about the powerful private bus operators' lobby & the stranglehold they have on city & district services.

Despite Blueline killing hundreds & the Mangalore /Kochi experiences, the whys of the many shortcomings with existing private city bus operations are being covered up let alone being touched upon or analyzed nor suggestions made for overcoming them. Instead, every opportunity is being grabbed to shower praises upon such proven sub-standard private bus services. Commuter groups voicing dissent against them is also suppressed with hope that it may help garner support.

Such tactics & talks of imaginary improvement in efficiency merely by replacing operators without going into any of the problems that are likely to arise with solely profit-driven operators that are required to provide subsidized cheap transport & exploring ways to counter them will obviously end up no place.

Naveen's picture

Mangalore Public transport perilous

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This coastal city is dreaded by the motorists from all parts of the country. But the best drivers of the country will also be put to a real hardship if they were to drive in Mangalore. The public transport system here is perhaps the most dangerously run system and now faces the danger of being a cartel in itself.

The police department doles out the statistics that the death rates in the Mangalore City Police Commissionerate limits (just 17 police stations) was going up. In 2008 the number of deaths was 129. In 2009, it was 130 and in 2010 it was 167. About 50% of these deaths on a year to year basis was due to the public transport (city and mofussil buses).

The figures of Dakshina Kannada district are more startling. According to the District Crime Investigation Bureau statistics, in 2008, there were 574 cases of accidents out of which 84 people died, in 2009 the total accidents were 598 out of which 107 were fatal. In 2010 there were 595 cases out of which 90 persons were killed and 35% of the fatalities were due to public transport buses.
In 2012, till September 26 persons have lost their lives due to public transport in Mangalore city alone.

The private bus operators dominate the public transport system in Mangalore city in particular, and Dakshina Kannada and Udupi district in general. There are about 600 private buses servicing the system.

The lobby is so powerful that it has minimised the mighty KSRTC in these two districts. They have also managed to bring a court order against KSRTC plying in the city and many of the interior roads monopolising the public transport.

Though the KSRTC Mangalore division was putting up a brave fight for its share, the transport ministry has laid down arms in front of the private operators. The KSRTC has just six buses running between Mangalore and Manipal, and in the city sector it has another six buses.

But the competition has been intense between the operators. Taking advantage of the amendment of the Public Transport Act of 1972 in 1989, every person who desired to plunge into the public transport business gets a permit. As a result, there are more single bus owners than the fleet owners, which is a dangerous development for a public transport system as the single bus operators are nothing short of bounty hunters and engage in a mad rush at top speeds for picking up every passenger.

The permit holder and bus owner lease the vehicle to a bunch of drivers and conductors on the conditions of paying him back every day which includes his bank payment, wear and tear and his individual profit.

“All single bus operators do this which has unleashed a mad rush on the roads of Mangalore and Udupi due to which public safety is in serious jeopardy. We have brought this unhealthy practice to the notice of the several transport ministers and the transport commissioners in the past but there was no action,” said Hanumanth Kamath, president of the Nagarika Hitarakshana Vedike of Mangalore.

Source

abidpqa's picture

Regulator is already there,

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Regulator is already there, the traffic police. There are also methods to impose discipline, such speed governors and speed detector equipment. These equipment are never used to control the private bus operators. That is whatever regulation already existing does not work. One reason is control of reckless driving of buses is a low priority for police because of many reasons.  Therefor law and order is an important component that has to work for private buses to operate or for them to get my support.

Regarding monopoly, private buses are running between Banshankari and Hebbal, as I know. If there is BMTC monopoly how these buses are running? Maybe it shows they are beyond laws. If big players are the solution, why are they not running interstate routes? Again, the old question, why small players cannot follow the law.

murali772's picture

the writing on the wall

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According M B Sathyan, president, Private Bus Owners Association, they are forced to keep mum as there is an acute shortage of bus drivers.

“There are several buses which are in garage owing to lack of drivers. If a owner speaks harshly to any driver who causes an accident, he will quit the job. He will be hired the next day by any other owner. So, the majority of owners fear their employees,” he said.


For the full report in the New Indian Express, Kochi edition, click here

powerful private bus operators' lobby & the stranglehold they have on city & district services - extract from Naveen's post of 13th Dec

While the Mangalore operators may be a powerful enough mafia, in Kochi, however, they are at the mercy of the government on the one side, and the drivers sub-mafia on the other, as the above report shows. So much so, a number of operators are surrendering their licences, as the report accessible here indicates.

And, even in Mangalore, however powerful a mafia the bus operators may be, they are still very subserviant to the bigger government mafia headed by the transport minister, as comes out from a reading of this report.

Despite Blueline killing hundreds & the Mangalore /Kochi experiences, the whys of the many shortcomings with existing private city bus operations are being covered up let alone being touched upon or analyzed nor suggestions made for overcoming them - another extract from Naveen's post of 13th Dec

But then, isn't this blog all about the why's of the short-comings of the private sector operations? I am surprised by these comments, apart from the accusations of adopting "tactics" (in the same post), essentially implying that I am part of a paid lobby. Prajagalu may form their own conclusions.

But the competition has been intense between the operators. Taking advantage of the amendment of the Public Transport Act of 1972 in 1989, every person who desired to plunge into the public transport business gets a permit. As a result, there are more single bus owners than the fleet owners, which is a dangerous development for a public transport system as the single bus operators are nothing short of bounty hunters and engage in a mad rush at top speeds for picking up every passenger - extract from Naveen's post of 16th Dec.

Very clearly, aren't these the areas where the problems lie, whether in Delhi, Mangalore or Kochi, and whether in bus transport services or in telecom, or for that matter, any of the services? So, shouldn't the answer to this lie in fixing proper selection criterion, viable fare regime to attract reputed players, and thereafter good regulation? And, if viable fares impinge on the affordability factor, in the case of the poorer sections of the society (but not the types who spend Rs 100 everyday on mobile-talks), perhaps they can be subsidised through coupons, which are anyway targeted to take effect in the food-grains and such areas, pretty soon.

Transforming the private sector as such should be very simple. The only problem is the government doesn't want to do it, since it is a cash cow for them, as existing. And, transforming monopoly government operators are a near impossibility - enough PRAJA teams themselves, apart from many others, have all tried and given up.

Muralidhar Rao
abidpqa's picture

This is a case private sector

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This is a case private sector themselves have to reform more important than changing gov policies.  In my opinion, Private sector does not want reform and they are blocking gov from making changes.  I hope railway privatizes more so that interstate bus operators also get taste of reforms.

If private sector operators are surrendering licences, it is good. It shows staff are now unwilling to be forced into participate in illegal activities because there are other opportunities.  But still the bad  behavior continues, bad behavior is big factor in the profit of the owners.  Bus owners are trying to confuse the actiions for safty of people as against the workers' interest in Kerala.

murali772's picture

government operators' accident records equally bad or worse

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Excerpts from yesterday's New Indian Express (for the full story, click here) - Accidents involving Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses have become a serious concern for the top officials of the corporation and the police department.

Excerpts from today's ToI (for the full story, click here) - West Bengal native and HP employee Ansuka Sinha died on the spot after a Tamil Nadubound KSRTC bus rammed his motorbike on Ramamurthynagar service road late on Friday night. - - -A man and his sister-in-law were killed when a BMTC bus hit the two-wheeler they were riding, near Bannerghatta on Saturday evening.

In fact, not a day passes without one such report or the other.

Muralidhar Rao
abidpqa's picture

We cannot say the accident

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We cannot say the accident rates are equal or similar based on one day's news. Why not check the whole year's statistics which I dont have. It is not just accidents, we have to look at rash and intimidating driving practices.

Naveen's picture

According M B

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According M B Sathyan…
So, along expected lines, Kochi private bus owners & drivers have proved & concede that their business is unviable in Kochi & is also unsafe – knocking down pedestrians & two wheelers comes as bonus with every such sub-standard service, I guess.

Great to hear they are surrendering their licenses – they can start other business like trucking, as Mangalore bus owners are doing. Unsafe private buses in Mangalore may soon be history – looks like public will throw them out soon.

Repeatedly quoting fictitious claims by bus owners’ for arguing & ignoring actual bus users’ views is like a drowning man clutching on to last straw – even that seems illusion here!

isn't this blog all about the why's of the short-comings of the private sector operations?
Not as long as one obstinately believes & hopelessly argues that with racing competition, private city buses will be safe & more efficient.

shouldn't the answer to this lie in fixing proper selection criterion, viable fare regime to attract reputed players, and thereafter good regulation?
Public transport fares must always be cheap & affordable to all sections, not ones who spend 100rs a day for mobile talks. Private city bus sector is not for ‘reputed players’ since such companies have many better opportunities after liberalization in other profitable sectors. Any sense left in reputed operators jumping in claim?

government operators' accident records equally bad or worse

Any source or just hot air? These incidents are in large metropolis where traffic is highly chaotic, there are 6500 buses, over 40 lakh vehicles & drivers work under stress as stated in the article. Mangalore has only some 360 buses & less than 2 lakhs vehicle population - it is 1/20th the size, & yet ghastly accidents are routine – this is enough proof for the higher rate of accidents per km per bus. No wonder public is demanding KSRTC – I think that the day is not far when public will start making similar demands in Kochi too.

Naveen's picture

Residents demand KSRTC, block road

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People of Mudipu and surrounding areas staged a protest against RTA’s decision to withdraw peak hour services of KSRTC buses, following objections by private operators, on Thursday.

The protesters demanded KSRTC bus services to Vittal, B C Road, Manjanadu, Manchi, Kukkaje via Konaje-Mudipu route.

The protesters accused the private bus owners for indulging in lobby against government buses. “If this continued, then we will not allow private buses to ply on the road,” they said.

The protesters had stopped plying of buses on the route from 9 am till 6 pm. All the business establishments had shut their business in support of the protest, in Mudipu.

Former MLA Padmanabha Kottari said that the KSRTC buses are serving the citizens. It is not right on the part of private bus owners to oppose KSRTC services. “We are not against private bus operators. But we want KSRTC services to rural areas,” he added.

Horata Samithi leader T G Rajaram Bhat said that the private bus conductors consider school children as sheep and women and senior citizens as second grade citizens. Private buses are always overcrowded.

RTO Mallikarjuna who visited the protesters said that a meeting will be convened on
January 3, to discuss the issue.

The bus services to Konaje, Mudipu, Deralakatte were suspended following the protest. The protesters did not allow the buses to ply on Konaje, Innoli and Harekala route as well.

Horata Samithi President Santosh Kumar Boliyar and others were present.

Source-DH

murali772's picture

solution lies elsewhere, Mr Minister! Do you want to see it?

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Opportunistic bus fare hikes for long weekends and festivals could soon invite punitive action. The state government has decided to amend the Karnataka State Contract Carriages Act to regulate private bus fares. “The amendment bill will be introduced in the next Legislature session in Belgaum,” said Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy. Passengers are complaining about fares going up two to three times when the demand is high, he said. “Such fleecing should be and penalised. The bill will enable the government to fix a base fare and allow a marginal increase when the situation so demands,” he told reporters on Thursday. Once the law is in place, private operators will have to seek the government’s approval to hike fares. 
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
 
The fact of the matter is that, with the Contract Carriage Act (in accordance with which alone the private operators can get their registrations) being totally restrictive for normal bus operations (check this), the operators are having to pay huge chunks of bribes to all and sundry government officialdom including those only remotely connected to the services. The festival season rush, as such, provides the operators an opportunity to recover some of these "overheads".
 
The new proposal by the government is very likely just a gimmick to extract a bigger pound of flesh, against which the private operators will then come up with newer ways to neutralise the extra costs. But, in all of these, of course, it is the consumer who is at the receiving end, with fares shooting up sky-high.
 
The irony of it all is that, with the recent opening up of domestic airlines operations to established low-cost multi-national players, the fares there are becoming comparable to bus fares, but for much faster and more comfortable travel. This clearly brings out the difference between the approaches of the Central government and the State government, that of the former being people-centric, while of the latter being plainly babudom-centric.
 
If the state wants to turn people-centric, all it has to do is to repeal/ amend the Contract Carriage Act (and perhaps other related Acts) to remove all the constraining artificialities, and you'll have enough reputed players coming in to allow for much happier travelling experience, and at competitive fares. The analogy applies equally to city services too. 
 
Of course, the babu's and their political bosses will lose out on their hafta's. And, that's why it has not been happening so far. Does the Civil Society just want to sit and watch the goings on, and do nothing about it?
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

festival moolah collection exercise

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Boarding private long-distance buses near your home will get difficult, at least during the festival season. The transport department has cracked down on private buses picking up passengers at multiple points across the city
 
"The drive will continue till long-distance private buses, which come under Contract Carriages Rules, stop having multiple pick-up points. As per these rules, there cannot be multiple pick-up points. Passengers must board at one point," Narendra Holkar, joint commissioner of transport, said on Monday. 
 
Transport officials said they are checking private buses to ensure they don't carry crackers and inflammables. "Multiple pick-up points mean that screening of buses for such items becomes difficult," they said. 
 
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here
 
The government is at it again. It's the festival season, and the people need to travel. The government's own SRTC's are just unable to meet the demand, either in terms of quality or quantity. But, when the private sector operators gear themselves up to bridge the gap, the government goes into the fine print of the draconian Contract Carriage Act (check here for details), under which these operations are licensed, to clamp down on them.
 
Now, if the people come to know the truth, they will revolt. So, they cover it up with the facade of checking for fire-crackers. The game is obviously to collect "festival moolah", for the inspectors, the intermediaries, and the political bosses. 
 
This farce has gone on for too long. It's time the people revolted, and ended this sham monopoly in as vital a sector as public bus transport services - check here for more. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Epitome of the licence-permit raaj

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“We decided to inspect buses which have been put into operation during the festival rush. We have seized around 50 buses. There were issues with safety and permit violations,” Narendra Holkar, Joint Commissioner of Transport, said.
 
Another official said, “Violations like blocked emergency exits, installation of 42 seats as opposed to the permitted 32 seats and air horns and illegal conversion of buses into sleeper coaches were found. The punishment for these offences will be decided by the court and we will implement them. The buses will remain seized.”
 
Meanwhile, the prices of tickets for normal bus services to several cities from Bengaluru shot up for travel on Wednesday with tickets for Hyderabad selling as high as Rs 2,400 for an A/C Volvo Semi Sleeper Bus. The same tickets are available at Rs 1,000 the very next day. Bus tickets to Mumbai were selling between Rs 3,500 and 3900 for travel on Wednesday with the price dropping to Rs 1,500 the very next day. KSRTC said that there is no immediate plan to operate extra buses.
 
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
 
One doubts the genuineness of the charges. And, even if true, it's not as if such practices could be peculiar to the holiday season.
 
Now, the demand shoots up during the holiday season, and the government operators are not in a position to meet it by themselves. In such a scenario, when the private players come forward to meet the demand, shouldn't the government agencies involved be facilitating it, rather than use every method (within the law and outside it) to thwart it, and make life difficult for the traveling public? 
 
Well, when that's the essential spirit of the Contract Carriage Act (check here), the epitome of the licence-permit raaj, what else can you expect, right?
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Hopefully UMTA will have a changed outlook

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Narendra Holkar, joint commissioner, transport department said, "We found documents in their office which showed they are charging more than they should as per the motor vehicle rules. They are engaging taxis which have state taxi permit but the tariff charged is lower. Differential tariff for different classes of vehicle is not yet a rule so that is their second violation. The third violation is of charging peak hour cess of Rs50 or more, which is told to the customers at the time of booking." 
 
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here
 
The cab aggregators coming onto the scene has been a god-send, given the pathetic bus transport services monopolised by BMTC, particularly for the women-folk and senior citizens, what with their ready accessibility 24x7 through mobile phone, automated billing (without haggling), etc, etc. And, after the unfortunate "Uber" incident in Delhi, I am sure they have by now incorporated foolproof safety features into their systems, and resulting out of it all, one can expect increased dependability on them. 
 
The continued hostility of the Transport Department lot, however, is quite jarring. They still seem to believe that their job is to impose a control regime, even as the people, more and more, would like to see them as facilitators, and thereafter regulators of service provisioning, by both government players and private players, on a level playing field.
 
Quite happily, the changed outlook of the people seems to be reflected under CHAPTER VII: PUBLIC PASSENGER TRANSPORT in the revised ROAD TRANSPORT AND SAFETY BILL 2015 (accessible here), where it, inter-alia, says as below:
 
The Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA), the State Government and urban local bodies while designing and framing a scheme under a local passenger transport scheme shall also consider:
(a) the enhancement to the economic vitality of the area, especially by enabling global competitiveness, productivity, and efficiency;
(b) the increase in the accessibility and mobility of people by integrated land use;
(c) the protection and enhancement of the environment, the promotion of energy conservation, improvement of the quality of life, and the promotion of consistency between transportation improvements;
(d) the enhancement to the multi-modal integration and connectivity of the transportation system for people by providing required infrastructure;
(e) the promotion of efficiency;
(f) the passenger transport performance targets that address the performance measures where applicable, to use in tracking progress towards attainment of critical outcomes for transportation of passengers and geographical region to be served under that scheme.
 
All of the above apply equally to public bus transport services too.
 
In order to be more citizen-friendly, one would like to recommend empanelling a studied citizen into the UMTA. Praja-RAAG will be happy to recommend names from amongst its members. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Using tax payers' money to deprive him of services

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The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition by private bus operators of Himachal challenging the tax sops being given to state-owned buses, enabling the staff to charge low fares from passengers.

A Bench, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, refused to entertain the appeal by the Niji Bus Operators Kalyan Sabha and others through advocate Shalu Sharma.

Appearing for the sabha, senior advocate Vibha Dutta Makhija pleaded that the tax exemption had given an unfair advantage to the state road transport corporation and rendered private operators uncompetitive.

The government had exempted state buses from payment of Rs 38,500 each as annual token tax, besides the special road tax of 10 paise per passenger per kilometre under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

The JNNURM was meant only for urban areas, but the state government had given the tax sops to the corporation for all its buses plying across the state, including far-flung rural areas, and on inter-state routes, Makhija pleaded.

- - - The Bench, however, said the government was well within its powers to grant exemptions in taxes. It also refused to keep the issue alive by tagging it with a similar case pending in the SC.


The petitioners said they had gone to the state high court, pleading that the tax exemptions to state buses in 2009 had resulted in huge losses for them, virtually ruining them. They had pleaded that this was against the interest of the commuting public as well as the private bus operators plied about 5,500 buses which was double the number of state buses.

Forthe full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in The Tribune, click here.

Very plainly, even as its own service providers cannot meet the demand, the government, instead of encouraging those who can, is doing every thing possible to kill them. The irony of it all is that it is using JNNURM funds, which after all come from the tax payer (you and me), to deny the much needed services to the same tax payers. This is totally against the spirit of "Make in India". Perhaps, if the matter had been presented to the Supreme Court that way, they may have viewed it differently.

Muralidhar Rao
sridharraman's picture

Cost is the only factor?

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It seems a bit weird that private operators are complaining about losses because government buses are cheaper. All along I was under the impression that private operators bring in efficiency, better quality of services and people are willing to pay extra for these services. So, based on this, even if government bus fares are cheaper, the "public" should be thronging towards private operators and boosting their (operator) profits, right?

murali772's picture

USSR model - Jai Ho!

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@Sridharraman  - At 10 ps per km, at an average125 km per day of operation, and an average ridership of 35, the subsidy per bus per annum would amount to a whopping Rs 1.6 lakhs, in addition to the Rs 38,500/- by way of tax exemption, making for a total Rs 2 lakhs per bus, per annum. All from JnNURM - tax payers' money.

Now, in your ideal world of Socialism, I expect all of the needs of the commuters/ travellers will be met by government service providers, and since the operations are not meant to make profits, they will be subsidised by the government, not just for carrying on the day-to-day operations, but even for expansions, and technology upgradations (we will not talk about modernisation, since that I guess would be anathema to the Socialist line of thinking - so, Volvo, etc would be out).

But then, how can all of these be limited to just bus operations? So, you'll have educaton, healthcare, water supply, power supply, train services, housing, food supplies, etc etc too similarly povided at subsidised rates by the government. All very well; but, where's the money going to come from? Taxing the rich, of course, you'll say. But, why would any rich man want to work his back off, to be taxed at the kind of levels that will be needed to meet all of this subsidy burden? I guess that's where patriotism comes in.

Well, isn't that what the USSR was all about? Apparently, there are enough takers in the country who may want to pursue that model. But, most certainly, count me out.
 

Muralidhar Rao
sridharraman's picture

Patriotism, eh?

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It would be nice if you could have answered the question that I had

So, based on this, even if government bus fares are cheaper, the "public" should be thronging towards private operators and boosting their (operator) profits, right?

What does any of your other points have to do with this? Apart from making ad hominem attacks randomly!

And among all the non-relevant points, where does patriotism even come in?! I am completely confused!

Let me try to ask the question again. Irrespective of government subsidising the transport, given that a section (I am not sure of the %) of the public consider their services to be sub-optimal, why aren't private operators (in this particular case) able to do well? Is price of tickets the only differentiator for users of this bus service?

murali772's picture

the more important question

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The more important question to ask, which of course you can't bother to, is can the government operator/s meet the demand by themselves. The answer being an obvious 'no', can the government then be creating such a steeply sloping field to the disadvantage of the private players?

The differential on account of the tax exemption and the "10 ps per km per seat per day" subsidy, that the private players are faced with, are just the official part. The unofficial part is the bribes they will have to pay to the numerous agencies involved, since they'll invariably be licensed only as "contract carriages" (check here, for more on that) - a coinage conceived by some 'brilliant' babu for this very purpose (which should hopefully go, if the new Transport Bill is passed - check here, for more on that). All in all, it's a huge burden, particularly when talking about operations in rural Himachal.

There's a saying "father waited for 1 hr to save Rs 10/-; while son spent Rs 10/- to save one hr". Quite understandably, the rural folk of Himachal remain very much in the father's mind-set, and consequently, the ticket price is important for them, compared to comfort, speed and other factors. But, in a city like Bengaluru, there's enough of the population aligned to the son's thinking, and consequently, factors other than the fare weigh-in more for them. How else do you think VRL, Durgamba, SRS, Neeta, Kallada, etc are managing their operations, quite often at fare levels higher than KSRTC's 'Airavat'? Now, if the operations are licensed properly, the more professional lot too will come on, and you can have services of all types and fare levels, inter-city, intra-city, as also connecting the rural areas, solving all the people's mobility problems in every aspect of the term.

I doubt anyone should have any difficulty understanding all of these. As such, the only people who are desperate to retain the status quo, in my understanding, can be the transport sector mafia confederation lot (headed of course by the politicos), who can then continue to further their vested interests.

And, if you want to label my respones to you as 'ad hominem', I wonder if it has to do with the prevailing culture of intolerence. Suit you, either way.
 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Transport ministry in reverse gear

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Private buses operating within and outside the state will not be allowed to enter the city. They will instead have to drop passengers at bus terminals on the outskirts. This decision, taking during a recent meeting of the State Transport Authority (STA), is aimed at reducing pollution and traffic congestion in Bengaluru.

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

Whareas every other city is trying to figure out ways to dis-incentivise the usage of cars (Delhi's odd-even; Delhi's, Mumbai's & Gurgaon's bus aggregation schemes - check here; besides these, elsewhere), 'namma governmentu' alone appears to want to do everything to disincentivise the operation of bus services, of course, as long as it's not it's BMTC/ KSRTC, but which can't meet the burgeoning demand (which they will contest; but, everybody knows the truth).

If there's a contest as to which ministry is contributing most to deteriorating quality of life in the city, I expect transport ministry will win hands down.

Muralidhar Rao

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