After a 48-hour strike called by trade unions of the Kerala State Road Transport Bus Corporation (KSRTC) led to almost complete suspension of services, commuters in the state must now brace for another strike, this time by private bus operators.
An indefinite strike called by the Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation, which is starting on November 9 midnight, is expected to cause immense hardship for commuters, especially in the rural areas.
However, a glimmer of hope remains as state transport minister Antony Raju is holding talks with the federation officials late on Monday night at the Nattakam guest house in Kottayam. The strike may be called off if the outcome of the talks is successful.
The bus operators, reeling from the effects of the steep hike in fuel prices and the drastic fall in patronage due to Covid lockdowns, have a slew of demands before the state government.
The principal demand is that minimum bus fares, currently at Rs 8, must be hiked to Rs 12, after which the charges should be Re 1 per kilometre. They have also demanded that bus fares for students should be increased to Rs 6.
The operators also want the road tax to be waived off during the pandemic and diesel subsidies from the government.
According to unofficial estimates, there are over 12,000 private buses in Kerala, including inter-district services.