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Omnibus fares triple ahead of Pongal in city, cry passengers
Cashing in on the huge demand from the passengers, who are desperate to visit their native places in other districts ahead of Pongal festival, the omni bus operators in the city have hiked the fare by two to three times.
A ticket for a sleeper AC Volvo bus to Madurai is being sold for a whopping Rs 3,999 to Rs 1,500 on Sunday and Monday against the regular fare of Rs 600 to Rs 1,200. The fares of non-AC buses from Chennai to Madurai are priced at Rs 550 to Rs 1,899 against the usual Rs 400 to Rs 700.
Passengers to southern districts are among the worst affected. Fares to Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari, Nagercoil, Thoothukudi and Tiruchendur peaked up to Rs 2,000-Rs 2,500. The fares to places like Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Thanjavur, Mayiladuthurai, Karur and Bengaluru are between Rs 1,700 and Rs 2,000.
“With the train tickets being sold out much in advance, the omni buses are only available option to visit my native Tirunelveli. The government bus ticket will be cheaper but it is also not available. So there is no other option but to take omni buses. They are charging up to Rs 2,700 for AC sleeper and over Rs 750 to 950 for non-AC seater seats,” said S Arunachalam, who works at an IT firm in the city.
However, the operators denied charging higher fares during festival seasons and blamed the travel agency buses for fleecing commuters. “About 5,000 to 10,000 additional buses from various parts of the State are operated during festival seasons. It is not the bigger companies like us but the smaller operators who overcharge. The profit margin of bus operation has drastically come down over the years,” said an officer-bearer of the Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association (TOBOA).
A Transport department official said that the passengers could complaint about the omni buses hiking the fares. “On the receipt of complaints, we have been taking action on the omni buses. We have set up a 24-hour control room and 11 teams to act on such complaints. The passengers can also complain on the omnibuses at the toll-free number 18004256151,” he said.
Steep rise in sugarcane price
The price of sugarcane has skyrocketed due to the shortage in supply. Vendors at Koyembedu wholesale market said that sugarcane that was sold for Rs 100 per bunch (20 sugarcanes) last year is currently being sold at Rs 400.
“The supply of sugarcane was more last year and hence it was sold at Rs 100 per bunch. However, the farmers failed to gain much profit. But this year, we are expecting more profit as the sugarcane prices have increased to Rs 400 per bunch. We are receiving 60 truckloads of sugarcane, which could go up to 100 truckloads. Till Pongal, the sugarcane will be sold between Rs 300 and Rs 400,” said B Balaji, member of Koyambedu Wholesale Merchants’ Association.
Meanwhile, the prices of fruits have decreased up to 10 per cent. “After two weeks, the prices have reduced. But the sale has remained dull. Pomegranate is being sold for Rs 120 per kg, apple for Rs 120 – Rs 170 per kg, grapes (with seed) at Rs 70 per kg, and orange for Rs 100,” said S Dhanasekar, secretary, Vegetable, Flowers and Fruits Merchants’ Association.
Flower vendors also saw a dip in the prices, as the supply has increased. “We expected sale to increase before Pongal but it is still dull. Currently, jasmine is being sold for Rs 850 – Rs 900 per kg, jasmine sambac for Rs 600 – Rs 750 per kg, pink jasmine Rs 300 – Rs 360 per kg, marigold Rs 100 – Rs 170, tuberose Rs 90 – Rs 120, damask rose Rs 100 – Rs 120 and rose Rs 160 – Rs 180,” said S Mookandi, secretary, Koyambedu Flower Merchants Association.