32,000 bus workers lost jobs during Covid times in Kerala

Shihaabudheen Kalikavu

Representative image | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Kalikavu: Around 32,000 workers in private bus sector has lost their jobs amid pandemic crisis, suggest data of a bus operators association. According to Hamsa Arikkunnan, state treasurer of Bus Operators Association, as many as 16,000 workers lost their jobs during the pandemic period when the services were stopped. While another 16,000 lost their job due to suspension of services and reduction in staff. Hit by Covid-19 pandemic, 4,100 buses stopped service. Buses which had four workers slashed the numbers to two and three.

“We hope the government will give tax exemption for the period in which services were suspended amid pandemic. As bus charge hike has been assured, some operators who have stopped services may resume operations. However, bus charge for students need revision which was last revised in 2012. Then only bus sector will survive,” says Hamsa.

The workers are taken on commission basis. For instance, if Rs 100 is the collection, then driver will get Rs 8 while the cleaner and conductor will receive Rs 7 each. Meanwhile, in services where collection witnesses a decline, the batta (special allowances) given is reduced and they operate on daily wage system.

Not just pandemic but also skyrocketing diesel prices wrecked havoc, the association pointed out. For one day’s operation, a bus might require 100 litres of diesel. Due to hike in diesel price, the cost for fuel alone has increased more than Rs 2,000. Apart from this, operators need to bear insurance cost and other allied operational costs.

Meanwhile, decadal data shows number of private bus services are declining in Kerala. The number of bus services in the year 2010 was 34,000. However, this year the number is only 8,500.

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