Chennai: Calling a cut in state bus fares an "eye-wash", Tamil Nadu's main opposition party, the DMK kept up the pressure on the state government by escalating its protests today. A united opposition led by the DMK, is holding state-wide protests demanding a rollback in what they call a drastic fare hike. Workers of the DMK and other opposition parties have blocked an important road in Chennai's Saidapet.
The MDMK Chief Vaiko, while courting arrest in Chennai during the protests, said, "It's a huge burden on the poor and salaried people." The losses are due to "corruption and mismanagement in the state transport corporations", Mr Vaiko claimed.
The Tamil Nadu government on Saturday had reduced bus fares from Rs 5 to Rs 4 but MK Stalin, the acting chief of the DMK, said, "We have demanded full roll back of increase in bus fares". MK Stalin said it is a "merciless act" of the government affecting the common man and alleged that the AIADMK government, without consulting anyone, has hiked bus fares by 66 per cent in a bid to rake in additional revenue.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss also demanded a rollback, saying the fare hike has resulted in people opting for alternate means of transport, defeating the purpose of the hike - which was for increasing the revenue for the State Transport Corporations. Mr Ramadoss, in a statement, said the state transport bodies have been losing around Rs 10 crore a day since the hike. He claimed, "22,000 government buses used to carry around 2.10 crore passengers daily but after the fare hike over 25 lakh passengers have switched over to railways, private buses and shared cabs, resulting in a huge loss per day."
Tamil Nadu has been witnessing protests ever since the government hiked bus fares on January 20, by 20 to 55 percent. After the introduction of the insurance component, bus fares doubled in some cases - a minimum fare of Rs 3 had shot up to Rs 6. Chief Minister K Palaniswami, while justifying the fare hike said his government was forced to hike bus fares due to various reasons like rise in fuel prices, procurement prices of new buses and other "unavoidable circumstances".