KOLKATA: Over a thousand school bus owners from Kolkata and surroundings are staring at mounting losses with diesel prices hitting at an all-time high and most guardians refusing to pay the dues that have piled up since March last year.
The bus owners claimed while several parents did not even contact them, others asked for a concession in fees, given their wards were taking the bus to school only a couple of days now. Several bus owners have now decided to appeal to West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners’ and Operators’ Association to let them tweak their services till middle school reopens.
Himadri Ganguly, general secretary of the association, said most schoolbuses have been plying with an average of three to of seven students. “The number of students matters to make ends meet. With diesel prices rising, our business model is at stake. Over 50% parents are not even contacting us lest we ask them to pay up the arrears since March. For a school at Gariahat, we carried three students on one bus and four on another. To another girls’ school in Bhowanipore, we ferried four students. Unless the scene improves soon, we might have to leave it to owners for the next step,” said Ganguly, who met the transport secretary on Monday, pleading that government concessions be provided at the earliest. “We want the government to notify the six-month road tax penalty waiver announced in the state budget. We have also asked for adjustment for those who have paid road tax between January and March,” he said.
Dilip Saha (74), proprietor of Saha Travels who operates across nine schools from Behala, said he had never felt such financial strain. “I ferried 500 students till last year. So far, 150 contacted me. On Monday, I spent Rs 1,300 on diesel to ferry two kids from Thakurpukur to Park Street,” he said. Robin Patra from Howrah said a parent wanted to pay on a daily basis. Arupam Dutta of Poolcar Owners’ Welfare Association pointed out the response had been muted. “Many parents are making their own arrangements,” he said.