The Himachal Pradesh government is developing a software that would automatically determine hiking or reducing bus fares according to fluctuating diesel prices, state Transport Minister Govind Singh Thakur said.
Thakur added that transport director J M Pathania had already been instructed to develop the software. However, the minister did not mention the time by which the software will be ready for operation.
Justifying the recent 25 per cent bus fare hike, the minister blamed former chief minister Virbhadra Singh's Congress government for the bad financial condition of the state-run Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC). The Congress is doing "cheap politics" by misleading the public on the issue of hiking bus fare, he alleged.
The transport minister claimed the bad condition of HRTC started when loan worth Rs 275 crore was sanctioned for buying buses by the Virbhadra Singh government from 2012-17. On the bus fare hike, the transport minister said the people of the state should jointly bear the burden of handling COVID-19.
Thakur said the HRTC faced a loss of Rs 166 crore in just two months of April and May due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown. The opposition Congress, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had on Tuesday demanded an immediate rollback of the 25 per cent hike in bus fares in the state. On Monday, the HP government took the decision to increase the bus fares by 25 per cent. It also decided to hike minimum bus fare for the first three kilometres from Rs 5 to Rs 7 in view of the fund crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In reply to a question, he said buses are plying on only 1,500 out of a total of 2,700 routes. He hoped that the buses on all routes would start running from August 1.
Thakur said the working of the transport department including registration of vehicles, issuance of licences, permits for buses would be made online in Himachal Pradesh.
Initially, the online work will be started in Kangra and Shimla districts from July 27 as a pilot project, he said, adding that the other districts of the state would take it up in August.
The minister also pointed out that HP would be the first state in the country to make the entire functioning of the transport department online.