Private bus owners struggle to survive

Business Covid-19 Cuttack

As Odisha announces a second lockdown, private bus owners in Odisha demand tax relaxation.

Cuttack-: The private bus owners are facing financial constraints due to lockdown. “We are struggling financially, we don’t know from where to pay our conductors and drivers,” said Debabrata Pattnaik, owner of Dilkhus bus. He added, “Both inter and intra-state buses are not running. Owners themselves do not have proper funds to pay the staff. Before the pandemic, I used to earn Rs.3000 per day while now its been days without any income”

 Closure of schools, colleges, temples, and hotels proved to be a major business roadblock for private bus owners. Debabrata said, “When the bus services resumed last year in June, it took us around two months to settle down as there were less customers as schools, colleges and temples were shut. I used to run 20 buses daily before the pandemic but now due to low business, I  run only two buses daily which are not fully occupied.”

The buses were running almost empty in the initial months after the first lockdown, and just when the business started picking pace,, the second lockdown happened. Prem, from Chakadola Bus Service said that before the pandemic, their buses used to run with full seating capacity but after the first lockdown, their buses  run with only five to ten customers. He further said, “With such a minimum  business, we had to pay maintenance and tax from our own pocket.”

Nupur Dash, a resident of Cuttack said that she doesn’t prefer to travel by bus these days owing to Covid safety reasons.

The bus owners want the government to provide them some relaxation in tax, Equated Monthly Installments (EMI), and insurance. Debendra Sahoo from Odisha Private Bus Owners Association said, “Around 14,000 buses run in Odisha. Nearly 57,000 people are dependent on this sector directly, 4,00,000 to 5,00,000 people depend on this sector indirectly. The situation this time is much worse than the first lockdown.”

He added, “We have been demanding from the government to postpone our insurance payment as the buses are not running, also the bank EMI should be postponed as well and tax relief should be provided for three months. The government has now provided tax relaxation only for two months, April and May.”(quote is too long)

If the government does not meet their requirement, the sector will be burdened with heavy financial loss and the bus owners won’t be able to pay the drivers and conductors any further. Debarata and Devendra said that they have provided income as well as food to the drivers and conductors this month but from next month it will be impossible for them to do so.

Bijay Mishra, Assistant Director (Tax), of Odisha Motor Vehicle Department said that they have provided the bus owners relaxation in tax this year for April-June, and if the lockdown continues after June, they might consider providing them tax relaxation after that as well. He added, “State government has forwarded their demand for relaxation in insurance to the center. Last year, we provided them full tax relaxation for three months, then 75 percent relaxation from April-July, 50 percent relaxation in August, and 25 percent relaxation in September.” 

Janaki Ram, retired professor and head of the MBA Department in MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology, said that these bus owners are affected by two factors mainly, the fear of travel among people and the government restrictions on travel. This causes a revenue problem in the economy. , “The price of petrol and diesel is also increasing, which is known as a cost problem. While the revenue is decreasing, the cost is increasing and this causes a reduction in profit,” Janaki added.

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