Travelling to Kerala from Bangalore has become an uphill task for thousands of commuters as private interstate bus operators are on an indefinite strike from Monday. The Inter-State Bus Owners Association (IBOA)’s Kerala chapter has ceased operations to protest alleged harassment by the Kerala motor vehicles department.
Several commuters were stranded in bus stands at Madiwala, Kalasipalya and Electronic City after failing to get an alternative ticket for their journey to various destinations in Kerala.
Abhijit A, a law consultant, struggled to find another bus from Madiwala. "I spent around three to four hours after reaching the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) depot in Shantinagar to find a ticket to Kochi but all buses were filled. I had to no other option but to cancel the journey," he said.
At the same time, Thiruvananthapuram-bound Pradeep Gopan was lucky enough to get a seat in a KSRTC Airavat bus. "I had cancelled the private bus ticket and had booked a seat via the KSRTC portal as soon as I got to know about this a week back," he said.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Samajam in Bangalore has written to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the state transport minister seeking immediate intervention on the issue.
"An estimated 8,000 people travel from Bangalore to different locations daily. The Kerala government needs to resolve the issue soon as it affects the smooth life of thousands of commuters. We expect the government to take a commuter-friendly decision on the same," Rejikumar, general secretary of Kerala Samajam (Bangalore), told Indianexpress.com
In light of the strike, both the Karnataka State and Kerala RTCs have decided to operate additional buses. While Karnataka State RTC is operating four extra buses from Bangalore — one each to Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kannur and Palakkad, Kerala RTC has deployed 14 additional services from different districts on Monday.
According to Kerala transport department officials, eight buses have been kept on standby to leave from Bangalore as per passenger demands.
However, this was not a comprehensive solution to the issue, said Rejikumar. "Private buses are always prefered by the majority for their punctuality, cleanliness and comfort. The government-run buses should reach up to their standards of operational quality to gain passenger loyalty," he said.
The situation has also affected passengers planning to travel to Bangalore from different locations in Kerala. Abhiram H, a cybersecurity analyst based in the city, said he had to opt for a premium tatkal ticket after he was informed late on the cancellation of his ticket in a Thiruvananthapuram-Bangalore bus.
"The operator was offering service only from Marthandam and I had booked for the same. I got a call from the operator this afternoon just hours before the scheduled departure time that the trip has been cancelled. To avoid this affecting my work schedule, I had no choice but to book a premium tatkal train ticket shelling out extra money," he said.
When Indianexpress.com contacted a private bus operator in Bangalore, he said the operators were forced to go on strike even though it was affecting them economically.
"Stopping services for more than three days is never feasible as this is our bread and butter. The harassment we have been facing for quite some time now ever since Kerala MVD began ‘Operation Night Riders’ has reached its peak, leading to such a situation. The officials continue to fine close to Rs 10,000 for each trip even if our staff furnish all documents related to road tax and inter-state permit to the officers," he alleged.