Re-fixation of launch fares
Every instance of fuel price hike becomes an occasion for the launch owners and operators to demand upward revision of fares. Whether it is proportionate to the increase in cost of operation gets lost in the owners trying to exact maximum advantage from the situation. They reel off a whole series of cost increases like; increased salaries of workers and repairing costs of vessels as justification for their inflated demand.
They claim that there has been an increase of 150-200 percent in repairing costs while salaries of workers went up by 65-150 percent. These figures are seldom contested by the government so the owners get away with their demand and the government eventually settles for a particular notch.
Since there is no organization to represent the vessel users' viewpoint it is the government which is obliged to safeguard their interest. In principle, we are not opposed to fare hike per se if there is a rationale for it. But this must be linked to better services to the customers in terms of amenities, punctuality and above all passenger safety.
Let's not forget that launches are the bulk carriers of commuters. As such, efficient management of the services is of crucial importance. We have known launches to have had poor designs and having been constructed in a shoddy manner so that they meet with fatal accidents, not least by ignoring weather signals.
Therefore, the vessels should be pressed into service only after they pass strict fitness and safety tests conducted by competent authority. Monitoring and vigilance would have to be ensured on a regular basis to checkmate overloading and guarantee adequate safety gears for the vessel. Other areas like, operating vessels on rotation, taxes on river route maintenance, vessel survey issues ought to be kept under constant watch. Necessary steps should also be taken to curb corruption in the sector.