Though the state government has allowed public transporter MSRTC to run its fleet with 100% capacity, private bus operators are only allowed to run with 50% occupancy, which is making operations unviable.
Passengers who traveled from Pune to Nagpur said, “The bus operators are not getting sufficient passengers on the return journey and hence they are transporting cargo perhaps to meet their expenses.”
“Two days ago while traveling on the luxury bus of RB Travels, Nagpur, there were six passengers who boarded the bus from Pune. Along the way, the bus staff loaded cargo on the floor near passengers’ seats. Though there was no inconvenience caused to the passengers as such, it only showed the desperation during Covid-19,” said passengers.
RB Travels spokesperson said, “From Nagpur, we are getting passengers, who are traveling in an emergency. On the return journey, the demand is less. The government has allowed one passenger per seat, which comes to 15 travelers, which is not sufficient to meet the cost. Still, we are operating buses in public interest. Cargo is not transported regularly.”
However, a section of private bus operators said, “Transporting cargo is not new. It is the usual practice. Most of the time it is part of the luggage of passengers. You cannot do it illegally as the e-way bill is generated for all goods in GST regime.”
Baba Dawre of Baba Travels said, “Cargo is transported in very small quantity and this may be done for survival. The state government has one passenger per seat. If you consider the cost of diesel and toll alone, at this capacity it is difficult to operate buses. Even if capacity has been reduced, tax is charged for all seats.”
Bobby Saini of Saini Travels said, “We are not operating buses due to lack of passengers and capacity restrictions. For a to and fro trip between Nagpur-Pune, our costs are Rs 38,000 which includes 440 litres of fuel worth Rs 34,000, Rs 2,500 allowances, etc. Capacity restrictions and poor passenger flow mean it makes no sense to run the buses.”
Saini added, “Traffic is not expected to increase even if curbs are removed as most of the IT companies have asked their staff to work from home. Besides, education institutes are also closed. A large chunk of travelers is from these two sectors.”