Even as businesses resume their operations in Hyderabad under the Unlock 1.0 guidelines, a few shops in the city have their shutters down, especially in the busy locales of Ameerpet and Lakdi-ka-pul. These shops belong to the booking agents associated with various operators of private long-distance buses, who are awaiting the government to resume operations of interstate buses following a two month long nationwide lockdown.
The Telangana government, while adopting the Centre’s guidelines for a graded opening up of the economy, has extended the ongoing lockdown in the state in areas other than containment zones till June 7. All shops are allowed to stay open till 8 pm.
Though the interstate movement of people is allowed without any requirement of special travel passes and permissions, there is no word yet on resuming operations of interstate private buses.
Meanwhile, the bus operators are of the view that they would not be able to start operations even if the government gives them a green signal. The reason — they have been demanding an exemption on payment of road taxes for the March-June quarter when they were unable to ply buses on the roads. Also, it is up to the different state governments to allow interstate operations.
Praveen Kumar, a senior manager with Orange Travels, said all bus operators are ready to start operations if the government gives a go-ahead. But talks are underway between the All India Bus Operators Association and governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regarding waiving-off interstate road tax for the last two months, he said. Before the lockdown, Orange travels used to ply 30 buses between Hyderabad and Bengaluru alone, which is one of the busiest interstate bus routes.
“We pay an interstate tax quarterly and since private buses were not operational for the last two months, we are requesting an exemption. We are ready with buses but we want some support from the government to ensure social distancing,” said Kumar.
Around 2,500 interstate buses used to operate from Hyderabad everyday. As the buses would now have to operate with 50 per cent occupancy, if and when permitted, Kumar said it would not help recover even the expenses incurred on diesel.
Khurshid Ali, general secretary of the All India Bus Operators Association, said there has been no response from the government regarding their demands and in such a scenario, it would not be possible to operate buses even if allowed to. He said all bus operators are in a wait and watch mode at the moment, hoping for support from the government to revive their sector.
“Even if we start services, who would want to travel by private buses? People are already scared of the virus. The travel and tourism sector will take over a year to come back on its feet. Travel for leisure is over for now,” he said.
So, wouldn’t the private buses start services in that case? “No, this is our business. We are ready and eager to take out operations. But we want tax exemption. The losses we might incur by starting operations will be less than that the losses incurred by not operating services,” Ali said.
Asked about the resumption of operations of private buses on the interstate route, D Vijaya Bhasker, the regional manager of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), said no operations have begun between states. “We are yet to receive any communication. Only intra-state and inter-district operations barring Hyderabad are going on as of now,” he said.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Superintendent of Police, Adilabad district, Vishnu S Warrier, said the existing guidelines are being followed at all 12 checkpoints bordering Maharashtra though new guidelines are expected soon. The Srinagar-Kanyakumari NH-44 passes through Adilabad district, which is a gateway to Telangana. As of now, there are no restrictions while traveling to Telangana by road from other states, he said.
“All commuters are subjected to thermal screening. The details of travel are passed on to the district administration at his/her destination for ensuring home quarantine. The ongoing drill continues until new guidelines are issued by the state government,” he added.
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