Badal’s big gift to private bus operators before elections
Chandigarh, September 26
Just a few months ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections, the Parkash Singh Badal government has initiated the process of extending bus routes and enhancing the operational timing to private transporters at a massive scale at the expense of the government-run buses, whose operational minutes have been cut.
Among the major beneficiaries are five transport companies of Doaba region, including Hoshiarpur Azad Transporters and Rajdhani Transporters — bought by companies owned by the Badal family and their subsidiary companies last month. These buses operate in Doaba, especially Hoshiarpur and surrounding areas.
Hoshiarpur Azad Transporters had applied for 22 routes, while Dabwali Transport and Orbit Aviation, owned by Badals, applied for extension on several routes, besides an increase in the number of daily trips.
In direct contrast, the State Transport Commissioner has curtailed the operational time of state transport buses emanating from Hoshiarpur; 712 minutes’ operation time (including halting at the bus stand) has been curtailed.
The Punjab Roadways Union has lodged a strong complaint with the Transport Secretary, who has reportedly sought a report. Over 500 proposal applications have been notified by the Commissioner in the Transport Gazette. The applications would be decided next week. With politicians at helm of affairs, the discussion would be a mere formality, insist sources.
Once notified, the routes will stay in place for five years, sources said. The bus transport business in the state has remained mired in controversy as the Badal family has a monopoly on several routes. Other politicians, including some of the Congress, also have huge stakes in the business.
“Once a transporter has taken a route permit, his profit depends on how many more kilometres he can run the bus in a day. The business is no longer viable for small operators who run buses less than 150 kms. With extension in routes and trips, we would be out of business,” said JS Grewal, general secretary, Small Scale Bus Operators Union.Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal, general secretary, PRTC Workers Union, questioned the process of extending routes and trips.
“This is all a camouflage exercise to benefit certain players. As per the norms, the route or trip of a bus can be increased only if public interest is involved. Was there any survey done to increase the routes and trips at such a massive scale?”
He also questioned the application sought by transport companies in Hoshiarpur. “How come the companies need extension in routes overnight? This is all being done to help particular transporters.”
Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar claimed the Badal family “has never interfered in the transport business”. “The chops and changes are part of a procedure and laid-down process. Rival political parties are fanning the unionists ahead of the elections. It has become their habit to see the hands of Badals and their profits in every move of the Transport Department,” he said.