The coronavirus came knocking at our doors in early March, an emergency was declared, we all closed our doors and went into hiding, officially called lockdown. Six months ago, though, with newfound hope, the unlock process began, step-by-step we too opened our doors and slowly life was going back to what it used to be. During those months spent in lockdown, and the months that came immediately afterwards, many struggled to make ends meet as there was uncertainty hanging in the air still. One such group of people are bus owners, drivers, conductors and everyone else associated with the same. The slump they are experiencing due to the pandemic has been the worst and right now, it has got them scrambling to even cover the maintenance cost of buses.
As most social meetings and events like family functions are not being held on a large scale like before and the fact that most educational institutions are continuing with online classes has heavily affected their business. For one, much of their customers used to be students commuting to and from educational institutions. Furthermore, most companies are also encouraging their employees to work from home. Thus, that’s more customers lost. Moreover, people at large are still afraid of the spread of the virus, which is why an increasing number of them choose not to travel by public transport. This is indeed a huge blow to bus owners, drivers and conductors. To aggravate the whole situation, talk of a second wave of the virus has been going around town as the seasons have now changed and winter has come to our doorstep. Reports have suggested that since the virus attacks the lungs, the complications a person affected with the virus will have to face will be more serious in the winter months. Therefore, it doesn’t seem like, people are ready to commute by public transport or will be ready to do the same anytime soon.
Around 70 private buses and 70% of KSRTC busses are in operation at the moment. In the city of Mangalore alone, approximately 60% of private city buses are on the move. Both private and KSRTC buses yield a good collection only in the mornings and evenings as those are the times when people go and come back from educational institutions and workplaces. Kuilady Suresh Nayak, president of Udupi Bus Owner’s Association talked of how revenues this year are only half of what it used to be the previous year. In Udupi, around 60% – 70% buses (both city and service buses) are currently in operation. However, the demand for seats in air-conditioned buses has been decreasing steadily as people do not prefer to stay enclosed with strangers – who may be potential carriers of the virus – in that manner. H S Arun, Divisional Controller of KSRTC Mangalore said that things may take some more time to become normal.