Kochi: Tourist bus owners and travel agents are heading to an open war over hundreds of vehicles and crew members stranded in Assam and West Bengal due to the lockdown in several States.
The buses were stranded after ferrying guest workers from Kerala ahead of the Assembly polls in those States. Owners and crew members accused that the agents, who had hired the vehicles, were refusing to pay for the return trip. They had been paid for the onward journey.
Agents, meanwhile, maintained that the remaining amount would be paid after the buses returned to Kerala. It has been alleged that the agents were not attending the phone calls.
Bus owners said they would have to shell out more than Rs 50,000 for refuelling a bus. Additional money has to be paid as taxes and at toll booths. Agents, meanwhile, said a solution would be found after the lockdown.
The stranded crew members have been undergoing a harrowing time without money and adequate facilities. Additionally, police personnel in those States have been mounting pressure on them to leave.
It was alleged that neither West Bengal nor Kerala acted on a directive by the Union transport Minister Nitin Gadkari to find a solution.
Crew members said the agents have been making huge profits by charging up to Rs 7,000 a passenger, after taking the buses on rent for a small amount.
A section of agents countered, blaming the bus owners of cheating even their own employees even as they made good profit by renting out the vehicles.
The agents also said they were given a small amount as commission, adding that many owners gave them vehicles hired from others for a lesser amount. They also accused the owners of charging up to Rs 6,500 a head if the bus belonged to them.