Price control of Bus Travel in Goa

Never in my life I have ever heard the argument for price-decontrol of bus transport in Goa. The public is probably biased towards thinking that government can keep prices low at the same time I have never heard any words of praise for the large number of private bus operators who are doing such excellent service to the society.

People continue to blame the private bus operators for the quality of their buses, unsafe practices, lack of comfort and lack of manners among the bus conductors. During my childhood “bus conductor” was the lowest common denominator of mannerism.

The number of private buses on Goan roads have only increased with time. The quality of those buses, the different type of services they offer has not changed at all. But more than the lack of quality, the lack of alternatives is far more disturbing because that has economic consequences for the population.

It is a sad thing that the last bus from Margao to Cancona is at 7:15pm. It is virtually impossible to travel to Cancona from Panaji post 6pm. There are no AC buses except the state run KRTC run volvo bus service on Margao-Panaji route and with an exception of handful state owned KRTC routes.

One of the reasons for this is the price control enforced by government coupled with tight regulation of each route and time slots. No individual can run a bus service unless and until he gets approval for the bus, the route and the time slot. Also, the bus stops are government enforced but in reality no one pays heed to those bus stops.

If government deregulates the price-control and also simplifies the process of giving licenses to bus owners, all Goans are more likely to have more buses, at more convenient times with higher comfort and different price levels.

The parallel to this is  that of government run PDS shops and private enterprise Kirana shops. The PDS food is cheap and the prices are controlled by Babus sitting somewhere far off. Even though the low prices are assured, it also means the food quality is bad, there is a restriction on how much food you can buy and there is absolutely no attention paid to the convenience and special demands of the customers. Also, there is always a shortage of food in such shops and corruption is rampant.

The private kirana shops however have ample food available at all times, you get to chose from several different qualities at different price points and the shop owner greets you with the nice big smile.

Imagine if someone tells you that PDS is the only way to ensure food security and the greedy lalaji should not be allowed to sell any food because he will sell it at a very high price. That argument is simply not valid.

Same is true with the bus, taxi and rickshaw services. It makes complete sense to allow as many players as possible in the game with complete freedom to set their prices. Government’s role should be only to ensure that no one can manipulate the market forces by forming monopolies by fraud or deceit.

But this is unlikely to happen.

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