November 23, 2017 8:47:17 am
The private bus operator, whose services were terminated on Wednesday following a strike by its employees, claimed that it was being harassed by the top management of the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML), which, it claimed, used to impose hefty fines for the slightest of reasons.
The bus operator, a firm by the name of Prasanna Purple, was shown the door on Wednesday after 200 of its buses went off the roads in protest against the alleged “non-payment of dues”.
However, Prasanna Patwardhan, chairman and managing director of Prasanna Purple, claimed that it was his firm that had decided to no longer work for the PMPML due to arbitrary fines imposed by its management, and the “style of functioning” of its CMD Tukaram Mundhe. “Working for PMPML is giving us neither job satisfaction nor financial benefits,” Patwardhan said, while offering a list of complaints against Mundhe, including ‘non-payment of dues worth Rs 17 crore’.
Patwardhan claimed his company had to shell out a huge fine if its drivers were found wearing shirts that were not buttoned up, talking on the phone or arguing with commuters. “They have charged Rs 25,000-Rs 50,000 per month for alleged indiscipline by drivers. We have not taken that money from our drivers…,” he said.
Patwardhan also claimed that the PMPML imposed a heavy fine on his company because the buses allegedly skipped a bus stop sometimes. “Every day, the PMPML fined us for skipping as many as 10,000 bus stops. How they arrived at this number is baffling to us. We were not even told who was monitoring the buses,” he said. The fine amount for skipping 10,000 bus stops over a period of five months stood at a staggering Rs 2.6 crore, he said.
Similarly, the penalty for breakdown of buses was hiked 10 times recently, claimed Patwardhan. “The fine for the breakdown of a bus went up from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000. If a bus tyre was punctured and if took more than an hour to return to the route, we had to pay a fine of Rs 5,000, which was more than the cost of the tyre,” he said, adding that in Prasanna Purple’s agreement with the PMPML, a fine of only Rs 500 was mentioned.
“We were supposed to ply 170 buses every day on different routes. Even if one bus was missing on a particular route, we had to pay a fine of Rs 11,000 per bus. That is approximately double the amount we earn from one bus every day,” he said, adding that he had moved court against the hefty fine.
“The court has granted a stay. But in the next bill cycle, the PMPML again deducted the amount to be paid to us. We have filed a contempt case against the transport body,” said Patwardhan.
When queried on the issue, Mundhe refused to discuss the specific allegations made by the private bus contractor, but insisted that all the actions taken against bus operators were in line with the agreements signed with them, and were aimed at improving the quality of public transport in the city. He also claimed that there were no unpaid bills, as alleged by the bus operator.
“Whatever they have been fined is as per the agreement… we don’t owe them anything. In fact, they owe us some amount which will be shortly communicated to them,” said Mundhe.