In a move that is likely to bring relief to about 15,000 villages and towns that are not connected by adequate buses, the state government has given monopoly to the State Road Transport Corporations (SRTC) to ply ‘stage carriage’ buses (multiple stoppages) across the state. Till now, the Transport Department would issue route permits to private operators through district road transport authorities. But the powerful lobby of private operators meant that the SRTCs had to struggle hard to operate in several districts. But all that is about to change. The Transport Department has now notified the ‘Comprehensive Area Scheme’ that effectively gives state operators freedom to run buses without waiting for permits.
“It’s a major policy decision that will help the state transporters to connect different areas and extend transport facility to remote corners,” Principal Secretary of the department, B Basavaraju said. The department had stopped issuing permits to private operators from March 24, 2018, after issuing the draft notification for the scheme. The permits issued before will remain valid. The scheme also doesn’t affect ‘contract carriage’ (from one point to another) permit holders.
An official from Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) said the scheme will help them run buses on affordable rates and without hassles in several districts which have been till now suffering due to inadequate bus services. Due to the permit problem, 1131 villages remain unconnected in Shivamogga, followed by 971 in Tumkur, 566 in Chitradurga, 538 in Davangere and hundreds more in other villages. The new scheme provides the SRTCs with the “right to operate any class of services in the state of Karnataka and to increase the trips and vehicles as and when required”.
It will put the department in a superior position in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, where the KSRTC is under stress due to intense competition from the private bus operators. Permit was a major hurdle for the KSRTC, NEKRTC and NWKRTC, which cover the northern parts of the state. Officials in the two northern corporations said the scheme will reinforce their superiority and extend operations to some of the unconnected areas without any hassle. When asked whether the state corporations had enough buses and employees to serve all the areas, Basavaraju said the department will take steps to provide the necessary infrastructure and people to ensure their smooth operation.