Kannur: The lull in people's movements overall owing to the Covid-19 scare has put the brakes on travel by buses as well.
With the public widely turning claustrophobic and travel-shy due to the virus fear, buses which form the major public transprt in northern districts, have become the major casualty. The number of passengers has come down by an estimated 50 to 75 per cent, say sources in the public transport industry.
Bus owners lament that at this level of revenue fall, they will have to borrow money to meet daily expenses. Several buses are reported to have stopped plying in Kannur's subrban routes from the district capital. The fall in passengers is aggravated by the closure of schools, cinema halls and other educational institutions as per precautionary measures ordered by the governmenet.
Owners complain that they incur heavy expenses on a daily basis even when buses do not ply such as tax and insurance. And on days they operate, they cost heavily on fuel, wages etc. Many owners say they are forced to buy fuel on credit from petrol pumps.
Festivals and functions like weddings, which trigger lot of people to be on the move, have also been either cancelled or drastically trimmed with a fallout on public transport income. Regional pilgrim centres and temples which used to attract lot of devotees are less visited now due to the current restrictions.
Although the government cannot accept suspension of buses, since it comes under essential service, it is helpless when genuine grievances do exist.
In view of the fall in revenue, bus owners have asked the government to waive the tax for two quarters and to grant diesel subsidy, said Kannur district Secretary of Bus Operators' Association.
And the employees of transport firms, at the prospect of a less profitable situation for owers, are also contemplating other vocations. Already, the production boost of car industry and car purchase by a larger perentage of population, fewer people now bank on bus as a mode of transport. According to one figure cited, when there were over 2,400 buses in Kannur district, now that has been reduced to nearly its half.
Besides the spread of pandemics, hartal, flood and lightning strikes also cause stoppage of services with a resultant fall n income of owners.