Will Bangalore buses run for the people, or for profits?

 

The BMTC on its website states that its vision is to ‘Make BMTC sustainable, people-centered and (a) choice mode of travel for everyone’. But does it really follow through on its vision?

With its recent announcement that bus fares are being increased by 15%, BMTC certainly stands a chance to remain sustainable, but its ability to be ‘people-centered’ and a ‘choice mode of travel for everyone’ remains questionable.

In an article published on Citizen Matters in February 2014, the Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike (BBPV) stated that a pourakarmika who earned Rs. 5,000 a month, shelled out 15% of her income only for her commute. The cheapest monthly pass available was priced at Rs. 725 (Rs. 925 for red board buses). And if there were more members of the family commuting via BMTC buses, the percentage of income spent on commute rose further.

With the revision of the fares, the monthly pass is now priced at Rs 825 (Rs 1050 for red board buses). For the many who already have a difficult task making ends meet, things are about to get even more difficult. Are the masses now supposed to compromise on other necessary expenditure such as health or food to be able to commute?

Daily Bus Pass – Revised Fares

Category Old Fare (in Rs) Revised Fare (in Rs)
Daily Pass With ID 55 65
Daily Pass Without ID 60 70
Gold Daily Pass 120 140
AC Suvarna Daily Pass 80 95
Red Board monthly pass holders Gold Pass  60 70
Dedicated Premium monthly pass holders Gold Pass  50 60

 

Monthly Bus Pass – Revised Fares

Category Old Fare (in Rs) Revised Fare (in Rs)
Black Board Monthly Pass 725 825
Red Board Monthly Pass 925 1050
Senior Citizen Board Monthly Pass 650 740
Senior Citizen Red Board Monthly Pass 830 945
Trumpet Monthly Pass  1100 1300
Green Monthly Pass 1100 1300
Student Vajra Monthly Pass 1300 1500
Vajra Monthly Pass  1950 2250
Vajra Friendly Monthly  2000 2300
Vayu Vajra 2900 3350
Vayu Vajra Pass More than 50 passes 2800 3250
Vayu Vajra Pass More than 100 passes 2700 3200
Vayu Vajra Pass More than 225 passes 2500 2950

 

Profitability versus Public-interest

Over the past couple of months, Citizen Matters has published several articles that have questioned how the BMTC functions – about its fares, transparency, connectivity and affordability. Will the BMTC, continue to be an organisation that places profit-making above the needs of the citizens of Bengaluru?

Anjum Parwez, MD of BMTC maintains that diesel prices and salaries are the two main reasons for the fare hike. He says, “In the last two to three years things have changed. You have seen the condition of the economy. We have been suffering losses for two years now, but in 2014-2015, we will come back to break-even point. Thereafter, we will not bother people on the tariff issue. This is a  one-time cooperation that we are seeking from them. We will not cause any discomfort to the people, at least for the next three or four years”.

When asked if a rollback of prices was possible in the event of BMTC managing to recover its losses, he said, “Rollback is never going to happen, because cost is always on the upper side. But in the future, the hike will not be an increase of 15%, it will be an increase by 5 or 6 percentage points, a nominal increase”.

The BMTC, which made an average profit of Rs 4.9 crore during the period 2008-09 to 2011-12, claims to be currently incurring a loss in 10 figures. The press release that is now live on their website says that the BMTC is in the red, with losses to the tune of Rs 130-140 crore for FY 2013-2014. In FY 2012-2013, it suffered a loss of Rs 147 crore, and this was the first loss that it had since its second year of inception. For the year ending 2012 however, BMTC made a profit of Rs 21.42 crore.

Anjum Parwez states, “BMTC is not interested in making even a single rupee of profit. That is not the motto or the purpose of BMTC. But at the same time, we need to ensure that we don’t run into losses year after year”.

While the BMTC has quoted increasing diesel prices as one of the reasons for the hike in fares, one must note that the percentage of increase has not remained the same across the two. In the past two years alone, diesel prices in Bangalore have gone up by a little over 30%, while the BMTC fares have increased by 50%. The monthly bus pass for black board buses, which is what pourakarmikas or those in a similar earning bracket would have, has gone up from Rs 550 in July 2012 to Rs 825 in April 2014.

 

Comparison

July 2012

(Rs)

May 2013

(Rs)

April 2014

(Rs)

Percentage  increase since Jul 2012

Diesel Prices

44.98

54.21

59.74

32.81%

BMTC Fares (for monthly pass – black board)

550

625

825

50%

Commuters demand revision of fares

The BBPV is a collective of several organisations and commuters who have joined hands to fight for lower fares and would like the BMTC to shift from a profit-oriented model of public transport to a service-oriented model.  It was formed in June 2013 to protest against the hike in BMTC fares at that time. When the BMTC announced its recent hike in fares, the BBPV protested once again.

Citizen Matters spoke to Darshana, a lawyer working with BBPV, to understand what they sought to achieve by means of their protest. On April 26th, members of the BBPV boarded two BMTC buses from Majestic and made their way to Vidhana Soudha, paying only Rs 5 for the journey. They submitted an appeal to Ramalinga Reddy, Minister for Transport to look into the hike in bus fares and made suggestions as to how the BMTC must provide affordable and equitable public transport for the city.

In their appeal, the BBPV mentioned that in the last three years alone, the BMTC has increased bus fares five times. In several of the stages, the hike has been in the range of 50% to 80%. The reasons cited by the BMTC for this increase are diesel prices and staff costs.

The suggestions made by the BBPV include the following:

  1. Revision of the BMTC fare structure and fare fixing mechanism. Fares should not exceed 5% of the lowest minimum wages fixed by the Government of Karnataka. 

  1. Proposed fare structure

    1. Rs 5 for the first 10 km, Rs 10 for 10-20 km and Rs 15 for any distance in excess of 20 km

    2. Daily passes for Rs 25 and monthly passes for Rs 250

    3. Free passes for senior citizens, people with disability, Antyodaya card holders and school children 

  1. Financial and operations audit and inquiry of BMTC by CAG or an appropriate statutory authority 

  1. Annual statutory and social audit 

  1. Financial support from the state government if the BMTC is unable to provide affordable bus service to the common people from its revenues alone. This could entail

    1. Withdrawal of taxes paid by BMTC

    2. Operational support through payment of employees’ salaries

    3. Funds for capital expenditure

    4. Study of operational models of other cities offering affordable public transport

    5. Transfer of revenue from parking and congestion fees to BMTC

    6. Institution of a Corpus Fund of an amount comparable to what is being spent on Bangalore Metro 

On April 29th, the BBPV hired a BMTC bus from Shanthinagar and went to several bus depots across the city. At each stop they  spoke to fellow commuters, distributed pamphlets and collected signatures for their 50 paise campaign, which states that commuters shouldn’t have to pay more than 50 paise per km. Darshana says that many of the passengers joined in, shouted slogans with them and some even accompanied them during parts of the ride. 

Darshana also stated that a good portion of their suggestions has come from a report that was made in 1993, when the state legislature instituted a legislative sub-committee to look into the fare hike at that time, following public outrage over the hike. What the BBPV wants now is for the government to implement these suggestions so that the BMTC could find itself recouping its losses. 

Will the entry of private players make the BMTC pull up its socks?

Muralidhar Rao, a founding member of Praja and a regular commentator on civic and economic issues, has for a long time, been of the opinion that the entry of private players into the public transport sector will help improve the current state of affairs as well as keep the BMTC in check. He says, “Allowing private players in the segment is the only way you can bring a check on a monopoly. Monopolies by their nature are inefficient, and when it’s a government monopoly, it is in the pits.  It is a forum for misuse by every politician. And because of that, it should be opened up and have a proper regulator. Today, the BMTC is the prosecutor, judge and jury. That kind of system will continue to be misused”. 

On why the BMTC has been incurring losses for the past two years, both the BBPV and Muralidhar Rao are of the opinion that operational inefficiency lies at the heart of the problem. Rao says, “BMTC is not doing the best deployment of the fleet that they have – in a monopoly situation that is inevitable. They have about 3500 routes and it is only on the main routes, during peak hours, that the buses are full. At other times, they are empty or near empty. Then there is the cost of the Traffic Transit Management Centres (TTMC) – they have put in so much money, that there is no return”. 

Rao also indicates that there is huge pilferage in the operations chain – from conductor to the depot manager, from depot manager to the operational head, and from there to the minister. He adds, “These kinds of things will be prevented if there is good competition. The private sector will operate very efficiently. Otherwise, their jobs will be at stake”. 

He also made an interesting reference to the airline services segment and said that BMTC could learn from the mistakes that Air India has made: “BMTC can continue to be a player like Air India is in the airline services. Nobody bothers about Air India, and now they are desperate to figure out a way to handle that. Same thing will happen to BMTC if it cannot buck up and meet the need”. 

What lies in store for the future?

Will the BMTC consider the demands of citizens? Will the transport segment be opened up to private players? Only time can tell whether the transport corporation is able to remain true to its vision, even as it recovers from its losses. To quote Anjum Parwez, “BMTC has seen good days and bad days. It will see good days again. We will see to it that the best kind of service is provided to the citizens, that there are no compromises, and at the same time, we are able to sustain the organisation”.

 

About Ganga Madappa 77 Articles
Ganga Madappa is a Staff Reporter and the Community Manager at Citizen Matters. She loves cats and books and travel. She tweets at @pulicatmonster and blogs at Random Rambling.

5 Comments

  1. It’s not just in civil aviation alone. In every sector that has been opened up for competition, the services have improved to near world-class levels, besides offering good value for money – be it telecom, banking, insurance, power distribution (latest example being Delhi). And, the biggest sufferers of poor quality of infrastructural services like bus transport, power, water, are the poor, who can’t afford the alternatives. People have to realise this and start demanding opening up of these sectors to effective competition, duly overseen by a properly empowered regulatory body. There is plainly no other way out.

  2. BMTC is increasing the fares ,but they are not interested to maintain the service ,Most of the buses are in bad shape and most of the staff are not at all courteous.

  3. Really need to get their act together and come up with a service that actually runs. They seem to be doing a really good job with coming up with routes and coverage. But the reliability, frequency and management are really bad. I agree with Mr. Muralidhar Rao, some entry of private parties can increase efficiency. Profits need not come from just rising the prices. If they can ensure more people use buses they’ll see an increase in revenue. Sadly nothing seems to be done here except bus days; and the day after the bus day becomes a no-bus day. Noticed how the service is the worst on the 5th of each month?

  4. some more qstns
    who came up with the plan to spend to loads on TTMCs and did they have a plan to recover it? was the plan analyzed? is it implemented properly ?
    why are empty volvo buses plying next to each other for miles?

  5. i think the correct question is how come its in loss while it reported of profit 2/3yrs back ….if a detailed check up is done im sure many irregularities,mistakes,idiocies,personal gains etc will come out

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