Shimla: Crowded and unorganised public transport system of Shimla city is a frustrating experience for any commuter and whats more, registering complaints against errant bus operators proves futile for most do not display the phone numbers of Road Transport Office (RTO), something the authorities had mandated so as to enable passengers to call when required.
Transport authorities state that the seven digit phone number 2658379 has to be compulsorily displayed at a prominent place in all private and public buses so that passengers can register any complaint against the operator while commuting in the public transport system for any grievance related to the service.
While the state owned Himachal Roadways (HRTC) buses do have the public service number displayed inside the buses, many private operated buses have either no displayed the number at all or some who have, have done so is such a manner that it is hard to read the digits easily, says most regular commuters of the city bus service.
State Transport Officer (STO) Sanjay Sharma says, “We take immediate action against those bus owners or operators, against whom people have lodged a complaint through the public transport service number 2658379.”
First time offenders are let off with a warning but legal action is initiated against repeat offenders and chronic ones could evoke the harsh measure of permit cancelling, he said. If any bus is without the mandatory RTO phone number display, the owner is liable to a fine of Rs 100, he added.
Manoj, a Himachal Pradesh University student pointed out that under a changing tax regime for bus operating systems, tax levied initially was on the basis of tickets and now it is in accordance with seats and routes of buses.
Most conductors in many buses do not even distribute tickets. This has only become possible because the authorities are not doing any regular checking about tax evasion by these operators, he added.
There is a complete disconnect because all private bus owners get their tickets printed at their own responsibility, while the transport department regularly sends out supervisors and officers on flying squads to check out for any tax evasion taking place, said transport authority officers on conditions of anonymity.
As most checking by these flying squads is done on long route buses, local buses simply go scot free because of the authority oversight, says Manoj.
Data with the RTO office showed that there were 130 private buses registered in the city and all of them had withstood investigations during regular scrutiny of Motor Vehicle Inspectors (MTVs) that is conducted once a year, every year, said the official.