Kolkata: Despite pressure from operators, the West Bengal government on Saturday ruled out hike in bus and taxi fares, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured them that some alternate way would be provided to cover their losses.
Operators would be allowed to use advertisement boards on their vehicles while routes would be rationalised to minimise expenses, Commerce and Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee said after the chief minister held a meeting with a Group of Ministers.
Chatterjee, however, said the nine-point guideline on advertisement boards has to be followed strictly.
The state-owned transport corporations would be made financially vibrant without harming employee interest, he said.
The hike in lowest fare of Rs 4.50 in government buses to Rs 5 to make it a round figure and avoid the coin crisis was a decision taken three months ago and not for the purpose of a hike, he said.
Stating that the government was keen on implementing pollution-free transport, Chatterjee said the deadline for conversion to BS-III buses has been extended by six months as supply of BS-IV buses was not good.
For the conversion to BS-III, the state government has extended subsidies for buses, minibuses and autorickshaws, the minister said.
While the subsidy for conversion of a bus was increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000, that for taxis was enhanced from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 and for conversion of two-stroke autorickshaws to four-stroke Rs 5,000, he said.
Rs 10,000 would be given as subsidy in case of replacement of an old autorickshaw with a new one.
On simplifying repayment of loans, Chatterjee said Finance Minister Amit Mitra would take up the issue with bankers and submit a report to the chief minister.
The meeting also agreed to distribution of driving or vehicle registration licences through a special window at the Motor Vehicles Department against production of photo identity cards, while delivery of renewal permit or offer letter etc would be done by hand, Chatterjee said.
Joint Council of Bus Syndicate General Secretary Sadhan Das and Bengal Bus Syndicate Vice-President Dipak Sarkar, however, said that they believed that there was no alternative to fare hike.
"The CM gave us some suggestions and we have also given the state government time to act. Let us see what happens. We are happy that for the first time CM met the transport operators," they said.