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MUMBAI : Achool bus operators in Mahasrahtra's capital city Mumbai have said they will raise the charges for ferrying students by at least 20% in the current academic year, as compared to rates before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Mumbai School bus operators have decided to increase the fare by 20% owing tot he significant hike in fuel price and other reasons. 

The School Bus Owner's Association informed that the hike will be 20% or more depending on the area the school children are being ferried within. Mumbai school opened on Monday, 13 June after a month long summer vacation. 

The bus charges for students will be increased by 20 per cent or even more, but will differ according to areas and schools, the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) office-bearer Ramesh Maniyan told news agency PTI. 

Maniyan further emphasised that the decision to increase fare was induced by fuel price hike, payment of salaries of drivers and other staff. It also includes increased bus cost, RTO fees, traffic fines and penalties incurred in the last two years.  

The last two years saw school children take online classes from home as the pandemic induced lockdown had brought the world to a standstill. 

Though the business was closed for two years due to the pandemic, the salaries of drivers and other staff, like cleaners and female attendants, went up, Maniyan pointed out. 

Maniyan, who is also an office-bearer of the Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana, said the life of a school bus in Mumbai is about eight years, compared to 15 years in other parts of the country. 

Hence, they had requested the government to allow them to operate the old buses for another two years as the vehicles were not running during the pandemic, but it was turned down. If the government had accepted the demand, the burden (of bus charges) would not have been passed on to the parents of students, he said. 

Meanwhile, the parents of some students said schools have not yet conveyed to them about the increase in bus charges, but some operators have hinted at a hike, which would affect them at a time when they are already reeling under the burden of inflation. 

"My daughter's school is located in Byculla area. A school van operator earlier used to charge 900 per month for the journey from Kalachowki area (about three km away). Though the school has not yet conveyed anything about the bus charges increase, the old operator has told some parents that they are going to charge 1,300 to 1,500, which is quite high for such a short distance," a parent said on condition of anonymity. 

The parent further said they are now exploring other options like hiring a cab to ferry a group of students from their locality, as it will be a comparatively cheaper for them. 

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