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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bus Fare Hike in Kolkata and West Bengal

Revolutions of public & private transport wheels are costing us dearer. Recently, from 1st November, 2012, the bus fair has increased in Kolkata and rest of West Bengal. On working days, I travel from Lake Town to Theatre Road by bus. Previously the bus fair was Rs. 6. Do you have any idea how much I have to pay now? Any guesses? It’s not 7 or 8. It’s Rs. 9! Don’t believe it? You should. The new fair chart of 2*1 bus route shows me that. Is there any base for that ridiculous price hike?

From the year 2009, the petrol and diesel prices have increased for many times. But the bus fair has not “significantly increased”. Even right now, the bus owners are claiming that this price hike was not “enough”. Aren’t these controllers of bus price shameless? Everyday, we see overcrowded buses at office time. And they are saying, they are loss making.

How television media reacted after the price hike?

Just after the price hike, both print media and television media gave importance to the bus owners, who obviously gave reaction in their favour. They were less bothered about common people’s problems in paying the bus fares. No television channel asked common pedestrians about price hike in buses.

Where the conflict is happening?

With the changing price of bus fares, petrol price, diesel price and train fares, our salaries are not increasing. Now somebody can say, that increasing Rs. 500 as salary would take care of the fair price well. But the fact is that won’t. Because, the transportation cost is increased, the common man’s daily expenditure gets multiplied. How? Suppose, some vegetables are coming to Kolkata through other parts of West Bengal. Due to increased train fares, the cost will be more. A milk-butter & cheeze which are coming to Kolkata through road or rail transport will be more expensive.

A sample multiplication-effect calculation

Let us take the example of a family of 3 (father, mother and a kid). The family members buy 100 items per month. Suddenly, top due to increased transportation cost 80% of the items’ priced got increased by 2. also, suppose, among those 80% of the items (i.e. 80 items), 25% of the items are purchased daily and 50% items (i.e. 40 items) are purchased weekly and 25% items (i.e. 20 items) are purchased once in a month. So, how much rupees the family has to spend?

Here is the result:

Daily items: 20 x 30 = Rs. 600/-
Weekly items:  40 x 4 =  Rs. 160/-
Monthly items: 1 x 20 = Rs. 20/-

Extra expenditure:  Rs. 780/-

Now, suppose, the father of the family goes to office by a bus where the “Rs. 3” bus fare hike has happened. How much extra he to pay for bus fares?

Extra expenditure to go to office and returning home:  3 x 30 x 2 = Rs. 180

In this way, the transportation makes an impact and the effect gets multiplied. What if the father of the family does break journey to reach the office? Then the cost will be more. Also, for sake of simple calculation, we have taken Rs. 2 increase for each item. Last year, a cost of a 600 ml cold drink was Rs. 17. Right now it costs Rs. 28. Although, such price hike is not only due to transportation cost but transportation always play important role in steep price rise.

As per my observation, I see that the lots of changes are happening in Kolkata. Ordinary cinema halls are vanishing (where movie tickets had been Rs. 40 normally) and multiplexes (where ticket prices are of the range Rs. 90 - 200) are replacing them. Ordinary grocery stores (with low priced items) are losing preference among upper class consumers. Shopping malls with daily commodity store (containing high priced products) are gaining popularity. May be, by the year 2020, grocery stores and ordinary movie halls will become extinct in Kolkata or, even if they exist, their services won’t be available for middle class and lower class of the society.

The recent petrol & diesel price hike, bus fair hike (with ridiculous kilometer distance arguments), price of cooking gas increase are not common steps of government. These are NOT burdens of common people. These are actually open conspiracies to abolish middle and lower class people from our society.

In the future, Kolkata will remain as the city for only Upper Class and Upper-Middle class people. Those few middle class families who will manage to fight the situation will be like that:

1)      Husband and Wife both will be working
2)      Husband will have a second income (he would work for some extra time)
3)      They will buy less and save more
4)      They would put money in a banking scheme from where they can get return
5)      The future middle class families will always compromise in amusements

If you agree with me in the points stated in the article, please do me a fair. Please protest against the price hike and cumulative bus & train price increase, cooking gas price increase.

Also, I have alternative solutions for not hiking the bus fares:

1)      The walls of our buses and trains are kept almost blank. Our private bus owners can ask corporates to show brand ads on vehicle’s walls and ask charges from them. That can generate alternative revenue for the private bus owners.
2)      Government can issue special cards for the private bus drivers which they can show at petrol & diesel stations. By showing those special cards, they can get petrol or diesel at cheaper prices. That would decrease the cost of operation for private bus owner and they won’t have to hike the price.

These two solutions are given aiming the private bus owners as because the private buses are run more in Kolkata than government buses. But where the above solutions would be implemented or not, one thing is quite clear. Government won’t change the new, “irrational” bus fare rate charts and common people have to unnecessarily spend more money for bus fares. And not everybody’s salary is going to be increased because of this price hike. So, harder says awaiting for common people like me.

Addition on 9.12.2012:

The good news for bus fare hike is that the present government and private bus owners have brought down the bus fares. I thank them for their good initiatives. The bus fare is now taken as Rs. 7 instead Rs. 9 (last hiked) or Rs. 6 (old fair). So, literally Rs. 1 increase has taken place. I find the hike as reasonable now and think that the new fair chart will do justice to people's miserable economic conditions.