Mumbai: Maharashtra government today decided to run an additional 3,000 State Transport buses between cities in the state during the Diwali season with a fare hike ranging from 10-20 per cent, a move, that has been severely criticised by the opposition Congress and NCP.

According to Maharashtra Transport minister Diwakar Raote, the department has taken the decision to keep a check on private transporters, who hike their fares manifolds during festive seasons.

"The department repeatedly got complaints to fix private operators, who hike fares manifolds during festive seasons.

People from the middle class were finding it impossible to pay such exorbitant ticket prices.

"According to the current law, the Transport department cannot do anything against private operators. But, the Transport department do its part in ensuring that people have to depend less on these transporters," Raote said.

The minister said that the additional buses will ply on the roads for 20 days, starting from tomorrow.

"Fares for AC buses will be hiked by 20 per cent, 15 per cent for Non-AC buses and 10 per cent for common buses. I am sure people will have no problem in paying a little extra money instead of paying thousands extra charged by private operators," he said.

Criticising the government's move, Congress demanded an immediate roll-back of hiked fares, while the NCP said that the government is indulging in "pick-pocketing."

"The loot-government has again taken a decision that is against the interest of people. The government is looting people like private transporters do. We demand an immediate roll-back of hiked fares," Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said.

NCP leader Nawab Malik said, "People visit their native places during festive seasons like Diwali. The government is using this opportunity to indulge in pick-pocketing. The BJP looted people in the name of drought and the Shiv Sena is now indulging in pick-pocketing."