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It’s not fair

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on January 23, 2018

The bus fare hike in Tamil Nadu will hit the poor

Raising ticket rates of public transport is a hot-potato affair across the globe. Just last month London saw massive public rallies against rail fare hikes. Last week, Chennai and several other parts of Tamil Nadu witnessed angry reactions, online and offline, against the State Transport Corporation’s move to raise bus ticket rates by 20 to 54 per cent. Transport authorities say the hike, coming after a gap of six years, is inevitable given the precarious condition of corporation buses, increases in fuel prices and salary increments.

The reasoning may seem logical but such steep hikes hurtlow-income group commuters and labourers significantly. Whilethe middle and upper middle class generally avoid regular use of public transport as they now have affordable alternative private transport, lower-income groups rely solely on public transport — buses and suburban rail services. And most of them travel long distances to their workplace due to the exorbitant rents prevailing inside or near the city. This makes their current predicament even worse. The government must ease their pain, either by rolling back the hikes or by introducing flexible monthly or yearly passes at affordable rates. One needs to see how even such a measure will go down with daily wage-earners who may not have the wherewithal to part with bulk amounts.

Also, one fails to understand the socio-political logic in delaying fare hikes for such long periods. This kind of populism can only be counter-productive. If at all the transport department has to update fares to find funds for upgrading its fleet, it can seek several other routes including approaching private partners or the markets, or even raising fares at gradual intervals and not deliver a rude shock suddenly. The government must understand that providing public transport is not a profit-churning business, it is a social service.

Deputy Editor

Published on January 23, 2018

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