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Private Transporters Protest ‘Loss’ Caused by Shakti Scheme, Call Bengaluru Bandh

The unions have claimed that free bus rides for women cause financial loss to self-employed owners and drivers of private autos, buses and taxis.

Bengaluru: The Federation of Karnataka State Private Transport Associations has called for a Bengaluru Bandh on July 27to protest the financial “loss” caused by the Shakti Scheme, which offers free bus rides to women of all ages across the state for five years.

The unions will hold a rally from Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station to Freedom Park and a day-long protest at the venue.

Launching the scheme in the state capital on July 11, chief minister Siddaramaiah had said, “Women and transgenders irrespective of caste, religion and ageare eligible for free bus travel.”

However, the federation, headed by a lawyer called S Nataraj Sharma and comprising 23 transport unions, said in a statement:The self-reliant and self-employed owners and drivers of private autos, buses and taxis are faced with irreparable losses since the rollout of the Shakti Scheme.”

According to the federation, “they cannot repay their loans, employees and taxes, to renew insurance and can’t face their families”. Terming the situation “worrisome”, it said, “There will soon be an unemployment crisis much worse than before. The transport industry bit the dust during the COVID-19 pandemic and there seems to be no sign of recovery.” 

More than 5 lakh autos, 3 lakh taxis and 55,000 private buses payaround Rs 2,500 crore in direct taxes annually, the federation claimed. “Moreover, at least, 20 lakh people are directly employed by the industry.”

Auto and taxi drivers and bus owners have put forth a series of demands.Auto drivers’ unions have demanded that “illegal” Rapido bike taxis and registration of e-rickshaws by companies like Ola, Uber and Rapido be immediately banned. They have also demanded a monthly compensation of Rs 10,000 to cover the “losses caused by the Shakti Scheme”.

Taxi drivers’ unions have demanded stringent laws against whiteboard (licence plates) cars operate as taxis; subsidies to drivers for purchasing cars; funds for school and college education of drivers’children; and a ban on companies like Ola and Uber if they deduct a commission above 5%.

Private bus owners have demanded a refund on the lines of government payment made to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) for the loss caused by the Shakti Scheme; preventing overcrowding of public buses; government hiring private buses (and payment) on kilometre basis; and scrapping road tax on tourist and contract carriage buses.

Private transport unions have complained that the government refused to meet the unions and receive a memorandum.

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