The State Transport Authority of Tamil Nadu has collected a penalty of more than Rs 38 lakh from private omni bus operators in the past two days for charging high ticket prices from the passengers.
After the state government imposed lockdown three days ago, scores of migrant workers and others rushed to return to their native places. Though the government buses were operating at full capacity, passengers who wished to travel to regions far away opted for private buses.
As per the official release from the state transport department, from May 8 to May 10, senior officials of the department, segregated into different groups and involved in inspection, found 304 private omni buses violating the norms and charging high ticket prices. The department had collected a fine of Rs 38,12,990 for flouting the rules. A total of 25 buses were seized for violating Motor Vehicles Act.
Two days ago, scores of guest workers were protesting at the omni bus stand at Gandhipuram demanding buses to their hometowns. This took place after the authorities seized some of the buses which didn’t have the state permit and were carrying more than the allowed number of passengers.
For instance, a bus which was supposed to carry 36 passengers was accommodating more than 100 passengers. The passengers were guest workers returning to Bihar.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, A Anbalagan, the general secretary of All Omnibus Owners And Operators Association said that such incidents happen due to the greed of intermediate agents.
“We received some complaints from passengers that a few operators were over charging, we immediately contacted those operators and asked them to return the amount to passengers. Many of these vehicles that were caught by the officials didn’t have proper documents. The government has been continuously instructing not to overcharge or carry more passengers than the permit. Despite these warnings, incidents like the one that happened in Coimbatore occur due to certain agents who convince these passengers that they can reach their hometowns. The migrant workers also accept it as they feel the ticket price will be less. Two passengers were sharing one berth. Such agents are found in every district and because of them we are getting the bad name,” he said.
Anbalagan further said similar over-charging complaints have been reported during festivals like Diwali and Pongal but attempts have been to reduce it as much as possible. However, since the lockdown was announced suddenly, the issue could not be resolved quickly.
A senior official in the State Transport Department also blamed corrupt officials who allow omni buses till the check-posts. “We have asked the government to strengthen vigil at all check-posts to avoid such incidents. But a few officers are allowing the buses to run thus giving the agents permission to act in an illegal and improper manner,” he said.