"Raise Alcohol Prices Instead": Tamil Nadu Seethes Over Bus Fare Hike

The Tamil Nadu government says that the fare hike was inevitable but claims it's cheaper than bus fares in neighbouring states.

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'Raise Alcohol Prices Instead': Tamil Nadu Seethes Over Bus Fare Hike

Passengers protest in Coimbatore as the Tamil Nadu government hiked bus fares.

Chennai:  There's anger across Tamil Nadu over the state government's decision to raise bus fares across the board. The hike in fares -- ranging between 20 per cent and 67 per cent -- comes after a gap of six years. With the government deciding to charge commuters for insurance separately, fares have shot up in some categories. In Chennai, the minimum fare has doubled from Rs 3 to Rs 6.

"Public transport is a basic service and the hike is cruelty inflicted on us. Let them hike liquor prices but not bus fares," said Ahmad Basheer, a vegetable seller. It's a view shared by T Seetha, a domestic help. "Why does the government do this? We earn too little. Let them charge more for liquor". 

Citing that the last increase in fares was in 2011, the AIADMK government says the eight state-run transport corporations incur daily losses of Rs 9 crore due to hike in fuel prices over the years. The state government says that the fare hike was inevitable but claims it's cheaper than bus fares in neighbouring states.

The increase in fares that covers private buses as well follows a week-long strike by transport workers demanding a salary hike. The workers relented only after court intervened and appointed an arbitrator to look into their demands. The workers had asked for raising their basic pay by 2.57 times and the government offered them a fraction less (2.44 times). 

The new insurance component -- ranging between Re 1 (on fares of up Rs 25) and Rs 10 (on fares beyond Rs 500) -- will ensure speedy payment of compensation to accident victims whose families presently battle it out in courts over years, say officials.

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Accident victims or their next of kin (in case of death) will be entitled to government compensation that would vary from Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh.

The opposition DMK has called the fare hike a "big shock" and has demanded an immediate rollback.

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