Thiruvananthapuram: The decision to commence operations of 206 state-owned Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses on long-distance routes within the state from Saturday was deferred on Friday night, said a state minister.
Kerala Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran had announced earlier in the day that from Saturday, the buses would operate for the first since the nationwide lockdown came into effect in March, but following advice from the health authorities, it was decided to defer the decision as there has been a considerable rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the state.
Incidentally, the decision came at a time when the owners of 9,000 private buses in the state have decided not to operate their services.
Earlier in the day, Saseendran had said, "The services will resume as per the Covid protocols. The routes have been decided in such a manner that these will skip the containment zones. Since the Covid outbreak, people have been avoiding public transport and if this situation continues, the public utility transports may come to an abrupt end. Hence, even if we are at a loss, we have decided to resume our services."
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation resumed short-distance services after the Centre allowed public transportation following lockdown relaxations, but Kerala decided to stop the same after a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases.
On the other hand, private buses, plagued by poor revenue and huge running costs, decided to sit it out after pleas to the state government to provide relief.
"KSRTC buses have been given exemption from paying road tax till March 31, 2021. The KSRTC gets financial support regularly from the state and even this month, it got Rs 64 crore. We also want basic support; but we are not getting such support from the state government," said Lawerence Babu, a private bus operator.
The state provided tax relief to the owners of private buses in the first quarter of the current fiscal and extended the same till October, but the private operators dubbed the move as "inadequate".
No decision has been taken to operate inter-state bus services, said Saseendran.