Vijayawada (NTR district): Passengers have fallen victim to the whims of food and drink stall owners, who charge exorbitant tariffs on purchases above the Maximum Retail Price (MRP) at Pandit Nehru Bus Terminal (PNBS).
Vijayawada Bus Station is one of the largest bus stations in the country with around 3,000 bus services and over 3.5 lakh passengers commuting from this station every day. It is one of the busiest bus stations in India, like Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad. It has 62 platforms with two terminals, in addition to 10 platforms for city services. Apart from APSRTC, hundreds of buses from Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha and Chhattisgarh reach this station every day.
There are more than 146 stalls in the premises of the bus stop, 60% of which are cold drink shops and others are food stalls and shops selling electrical items. The departure terminals account for nearly 70% of the total number of places.
With this huge rush, stall owners and vendors formed a circle to sell items at prices higher than MRP. They practically extort money from customers on every purchase of groceries, soft drinks, popcorn, cookies and other snacks. Without a choice, passengers are forced to purchase items at an additional fare.
For example, a passenger has to pay Rs 25 to Rs 30 to buy a cold drink, which costs Rs 20 outside.
If the MRP of an item is Rs 30, then one has to pay Rs 50. Basically, one has to pay an additional Rs 10 to Rs 40 to buy any item at Vijayawada bus station.
It is alleged that some of the RTC employees are hand in hand behind this looting.
K Kumar from Arisepalli of Machilipatnam, a regular commuter to Vijayawada, said he bought a cold drink for Rs 30 at the stand near the Machilipatnam bus counter, whose MRP is only Rs 20. They also charge more on bottled water and popcorn.
The RTC department has set up a mobile phone number – 9959225467 to receive complaints about high prices. But RTC officials would not mind selling food and other items at higher prices at the bus station. Because, even if someone calls, either the phone is always busy or rarely answered.
Also, the RTC service put up some wall posters in dark places in the bus station asking commuters to complain if the organizers
sell items at high prices more than MRP’.
Passengers noted that lack of vigilance and enforcement at the larger bus station leads to commuters being exploited at high range in addition to RTC fares.
The deputy director of traffic at PNBS clarified that whenever the issue of collecting high prices at the bus station is within their purview, they impose heavy fines on the stall organizers. He said they will impose a fine of Rs 1,000 on the relevant stall if they receive a complaint. In addition, a number of wall posters and banners bearing the mobile number 9959225467 asking passengers to file complaints against violations are displayed on the premises of the bus station. He claimed that the phone number worked 24 hours a day and that three supervisors worked there in three shifts. “We urge commuters if anyone has to pay higher rates than MRP to call this number and action will be taken against them,” the deputy traffic warden said.