Aiming to end the monopolistic control over state transport, the Punjab government on Wednesday approved the draft of the much-awaited Transport policy under which the government will gradually increase the State Transport Undertakings’ share in luxury bus service.
Once the new policy is implemented, permits of as many as 5,432 buses indulging in extension/diversion of routes and besides 78 integral luxury coaches, will be cancelled and allotted afresh. Under the new policy, which is pursuant to the guidelines issued by Punjab and Haryana High Court, permits of another 6,700 mini buses will also be cancelled and fresh permits issued in those routes. Mini buses are mainly operated by small scale operators.
Under the policy, posts of DTOs will be abolished and the transport department would be restructured to streamline the issuance of permits and licences across commercial and private transport vehicles. “The share of State Transport Authority, Punjab Roadways and PRTC in the inter-state, point-to-point super integral coach service on contract carriage basis will be increased gradually, thus, eventually ending the private mafia control over these high-revenue bus routes,” a spokesperson disclosed after a meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.
A special task force of the vigilance department will be constituted to crack down on all illegal buses plying in a phased manner. The Draft Transport Scheme-2017, formulated in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, will be implemented after eliciting feedback from the public for 30 days and after getting it fine-tuned according to inputs received from the public.
The state government will seek a three month time period from the courts to implement the scheme in a phased manner in order to ensure that the public don’t face any inconvenience as a several buses are expected to be taken off the roads following its execution, said the spokesperson.
The new scheme, according to the spokesperson, is aimed at addressing the issues from which the system had been suffering, such as favouritism in allotment of permits and extensions given beyond the legal provisions on pick and choose basis. It would also promote the use of technology to check unauthorised plying of buses, which results in huge evasion of the Motor Vehicle Tax.
Besides fixing time slabs for buses, the new scheme will also provide for equitable distribution of halting time at bus stands between the State Transport Undertaking (STU) and privately operated buses. A monthly roster will also be prepared for private operators on a single route. The state government would be required to enable computer generation of rosters by providing the necessary software and technology within one year.
The roster shall also ensure that all private operators on a route get to operate buses at lean and high traffic times of a day equally, and the timings of buses belonging to a particular operator on a route shall be clubbed to avoid unhealthy competition, over speeding, concomitant discomfort to passengers and scare of accidents.
As per the policy, in case the number of eligible applications received for a particular route are more than the number of permits that can be granted for such route, the permits shall be allotted by way of draw of lots. In case of private operators, not more than 25 per cent of the total permits on a particular route shall be issued to one firm/party/person. Permits issued under this scheme shall be valid for a period of five years from the date of issue.
Upon renewal, the permits shall be valid for five years from the date of renewal. Permits issued by the state government, that were valid immediately prior to the coming into force of this scheme, shall be renewed for their balance period, at no extra charge, subject to the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, as long as they have not been declared invalid by any court of law and the operator furnishes an undertaking to comply with all the terms and provisions of the present scheme.
The new policy provides for registration of personal vehicles by SDMs, with driving licences to be issued on 32 Automated Driving Test Tracks itself by Assistant Transport Officers. The work related to commercial vehicles will be handled by 11 Regional Transport Authority (RTA) offices, which will be responsible for registration, licensing, permit issuance, and tax collection, besides registering personal vehicles. Six additional posts of Secretary RTAs will be created to fill in the gap created by the abolition of the 22 DTO posts.