The Kerala private bus operators went on a strike demanding an increase in fares. It must be assumed that the government silently supported the strike because increased fares will also be beneficial to the state transport corporation too, which is hopelessly in debt and a white elephant. To hoodwink the public the government threatened the bus operators that Essential Services Maintenance Act would be invoked. But the bluff by both the parties was called off due to the intervention of the Kerala High court which decried that any fare increase will have to be with its concurrence.
My suggestion for this recurrent issue would be as follows:-
Instead of invoking ESMA the government should completely withdraw from the road transport sector and leave it to the private operators. The present practice of granting permits, routes, timings and fixing fares should be done away with totally.
Let any willing investor acquire buses and ply on any route at any time and charge the fare he likes as long as he does not compel the passenger to travel in his bus. The consequent competition will take care of the fares, routes and timings. We have the outstanding example of the telecommunication sector before us for falling tariff rates and better services.
The present KSRTC should be made a limited company and allowed to sink or float by competing with the private player’s like the BSNL with their advantage they have in existing infrastructure and prime property throughout the state.
Wishing for low fares and better services is like wishing to eat the cake and trying to keep it. The socialistic mindset of the government as well as the governed has to change for comprehensive development.