New Delhi: Delhi`s public transport buses Wednesday began charging their new steeply hiked fares, affecting millions of mostly poor and lower income group commuters.
After announcing earlier that the revised fares would come into effect from Nov 1, both the state-run Delhi Transport Corp (DTC) and the privately run Blueline buses implemented the decision three days later Wednesday morning.
The minimum ticket in buses will now cost Rs.5 (compared to the earlier Rs.3), the Rs.7 ticket has been upped to Rs.10 and the Rs.10 ticket to Rs.15.
On DTC`s air-conditioned buses, commuters will pay Rs.10 as the minimum fare and Rs 25 for travel beyond 12 km.
Predictably, most commuters were resentful that their expenditure on bus travel -- which despite the sleek Metro rail remains the chief mode of public transport in the city -- had shot up by 50 to 100 percent.
East Delhi resident Kamlesh Kumar complained that the new fare structure would eat into her limited earnings.
"I only earn Rs.3,500 a month. This hike upsets my family budget. The government has not thought about the poor while taking this decision," the woman said, reflecting a widely held view.
The DTC`s over 3,600 buses carry around two million people daily. By March 2010, ahead of the Commonwealth Games, DTC is expected to add another 3,500 buses to its fleet.
The Delhi government has planned for nearly 11,000 buses by October 2010, when the Games begin.
The notorious Blueline buses number some 2,700, down from 5,500 in 2007, when their phasing out started. "The Bluelines will be phased out by March 2010," said a transport department official.
Till then, the public will have to pay extra for travelling in the Bluelines also.
But these buses have been asked to pay Rs.10,000 a month to DTC for using passenger facilities such as bus stands, up from the present Rs.2,500.
"Paying increased fare for the new low-floor DTC buses is still okay. But why must I pay more for these badly maintained Blueline buses? It is ridiculous," said a daily commuter, Richa Mishra.
The DTC justified the fare hike, saying the corporation was suffering huge losses.
"If the government is increasing the fare rates, they should also ensure that the bus services also improve," demanded Atul Kishan, a bus commuter at the busy Kashmere Gate bus terminal.
A Delhi-based advocate has already moved the Supreme Court challenging the government decision to hike the bus fares, terming it "unjustified".
Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma filed his lawsuit in the apex court registry, contending that "the government decision is unjustified and adds unbearably to the living costs of the poor in Delhi".
Sharma said that despite lacking required number of trained drivers, the public bus service had superfluous staff who were left idle.
Because of lack of drivers, 40 percent of the DTC buses remain parked and idle during peak evening hours in various depots, he said.