In about two weeks, it will be time for Vishu, a festival most Malayalees yearn to spend with their families. And while planning for the journey begins, Malayalees living in other cities feel the pinch. Bus operators, especially private operators from Chennai and Bengaluru, increase their fares exorbitantly.
Fare hikes go anywhere between 500- 1500. This happens even if seats are available on some private bus services. While checking the rates for 12th April, The Kochi Post found out that the prices of certain operators had gone up to INR 2900 from Bengaluru to Kochi. Whereas, plane tickets on the same route is close to INR 3500 on the same route! But considering that bus is the preferred mode of transport for students and the lower income groups, the price hike certainly seems unfair. This year since Vishu also precedes the long weekend of Good Friday and Easter, students and others are bound to try and get to Kerala by any way possible! This could mean a greater haul for the operators as there could be possibility of travel on the 14th as well as the 16th. Similarly bus fares go up during Onam season too, when Malayalees try going home to be with their loved ones.
“The issue needs to be looked at from a larger point of view. Air fares too, increase during festive season. That said, railway fares remain pretty stable and they even tend to announce an extra train service around the festival times. This also, could cause bus operators to increase fares from the competition point of view. However, it is unclear whether or not the operators collectively form a cartel or if it is just based on competition. Since these interstate tourist buses operate through contracts, it is difficult to regularize the system and put a price cap. Also, there isn’t much clarity on the nature of the permits of these vehicles. If there’s a way to ensure transparency in the permit system, we could nail down buses those are charging exorbitant rates and inspect them for other irregularities like limit on passengers and safety issue,” says D Dhanuraj, Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research.