Pathanamthitta: Private bus 'Robin' which resumed service on the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore route has continued to make headlines as the Motor Vehicle Department vowed to hunt over permit rule violation. The MVD officials blocked the bus at five locations since Saturday and slapped fines over permit violations. Within two days, the fine amount touched Rs 37,500 as the MVD slapped a fine of Rs 7500 each in all five locations.
On Saturday, the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicle Department asked the bus owner to pay Rs 70,410 including tax for 40 seats and a fine for non-payment during the inspection at Chavadi check post.
Baby Gireesh, the owner of Robin Bus condemned the act of the Motor Vehicle Department and asked why they didn't change rules for the citizens when they revised the rules for Chief Minister and his cabinet's Kerala tour.
“The Motor Vehicle Department officials waited on the road and fined me as if they had to wreak vengeance on me. They cannot stop with an illegal move. The service will be operated today also. The High Court granted the permission to resume the bus service. If the court issues an order to suspend the service, I will obey it. I had once broken my hands and legs in a bike accident. The officials have done so much to such an ill-fated man. In fact, the officers are helpless. But there are a lot of helpless people who have started ventures and struggle to survive. The officers should realise these people's plight,” he pointed out.
Even after MVD in Kerala and Tamil Nadu slapped fines amounting to nearly Rs 1 lakh, the bus owner declared that he would continue the service.
At the same time, he expressed happiness over the rousing support from the public to his bus.
“I didn't know that there were so many people with me. I don't see this as just support for myself, it's also a reply to the arrogance of the officials. Between the Paliyekkara toll in Thrissur district and the Panniyankara toll in Palakkad district, the local people waved and stopped the bus at seven places and gave it a warm welcome. The local people confronted the Motor Vehicle Department officials, booing them. Large crowds came to most of the places. Because of this, the distance which was supposed to be covered in 7 hours was covered in 15 hours,” he said.
The Coimbatore service that got entangled in legal knots
The Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore bus service was launched on August 30. The service was conducted for two days. On the morning of September 1, officials of the Motor Vehicles Department cancelled the fitness of the bus at Ranni private bus stand. The bus passed the fitness test after 45 days. The service resumed on October 16. When the bus reached Ranni, it was caught again, citing permit violations. The bus resumed service after 25 days following the order of the Ranni Judicial First Class Magistrate Court. The High Court has also directed the MVD officials not to block the bus service.
How Gireesh become an entrepreneur?
Gireesh had 11 bus services in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Idukki districts. In 2007, he lost mobility in his right leg and hand in a bike accident. In 2014, when the government took over long-distance services, five buses were sold. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak and related issues, all buses except the bus on the Erumeli-Ernakulam route were sold. Later, he started the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore service by purchasing a new bus.
Did Robin bus violate the law?
The tourist buses were plying in accordance with the provisions of the Central Motor Vehicles Act. In different states, taxes had to be paid separately. Now, under the All India Tourist Permit (AITP 2023) Act, buses can take a permit online and operate services anywhere in the country.
While the tax rate for a stage carriage bus is Rs 600 per seat, the quarterly tax is Rs 3,000 per seat for a bus that is granted an AITP permit. Sections 85(6) to 85(9) of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules say that contract carriage buses should not enter the bus stand or pick up people on the way to a destination. However, bus owners claim that the centre has relaxed these rules for All India Tourist Permits.
Motor Vehicle Department's argument
Enforcement RTO N C Ajith Kumar said the notice imposing a fine was issued as the bus did not run with tourists who booked the trip. Though the bus obtained an All India Tourist Permit, official records show that it holds a contract carriage permit. Hence, conditions to be followed by contract carriage buses are also applicable to Robin Bus.
KSRTC's move against Robin bus
Amid the MVD's action against the Robin bus, KSRTC has launched a new service on the Pathanamthitta-Coimbatore route giving tight competition to Robin bus. The bus service was started on Saturday at 4.30 am from Pathanamthitta.
KSRTC is worried that private buses will operate on the nationalized route using the new permit. The legal advice received by the Motor Vehicle Department is that buses that operate service by displaying a board of destination after taking an AITP permit can be seized.