Upping the ante against BJP-led Maharashtra government over hike in State Transport (ST) bus fares by upto 20 per cent during Diwali season, the Opposition today alleged that the move reeks of a connivance between the private operators and the government.
While Congress termed the state government's move as "unjustifiable", the NCP demanded that the Chief Minister should immediately intervene and roll back the hike in fares.
"On one hand (Shiv Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray hits out at his own government and says the government is doing nothing to contain the price rise. On the other, his own (Transport) department is hiking fares and he is doing nothing about it. This is the height of hypocrisy," former transport minister Sachin Ahir told reporters here.
"Diwali is the time when people need ST services the most. But, a rate hike at this time makes us think that one cannot deny the possibility of a connivance between the government and private contractors," the NCP leader alleged. He suggested that the government, instead of going for a rate hike, could have made provisions for bus fuel to be filled from outside the limits of Mumbai, where rates are already less as there is no octroi to be paid there.
"Instead of doing this, they chose to hike fares. It simply means that indirectly you want people to get diverted from using ST buses to private contractors. If within 2 days they do not announce a roll-back, we will not let any bus to leave Mumbai Central bus depot," Ahir said.
Congress leader Sachin Sawant said at a time when the state was grappling with drought and a collapse of the rural economy, people were expected to be given benefits rather than being made to put up with an additional burden.
"The reasons that the government is citing for rate hike are unjustifiable. This shows that the government is insensitive and is out of ideas to generate revenue for the loss-making ST Corporation," he said.
Maharashtra Transport Minister Diwakar Raote had on Wednesday announced that the government plans to run an additional 3,000 buses for a period of 20 days, starting November 5, with a fare hike ranging from 10-20 per cent.
According to Raote, the decision was taken to keep a check on private transporters who hike their fares manifold during festive seasons.