Ambulance owners threaten to go on strike, want RTO to revise tariff

Ambulance operators in the city are not happy with the fares fixed by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) last August. Claiming that the rates are too low for them to stay in the business, the ambulance owners' federation has threatened to launch an agitation if the rates are not revised.

"We are not just a transport service like autorickshaws or buses. Our job even extends to ferrying dead bodies and we are hardly paid for that work. Poor patients cannot afford fares and most of the time we have to render the service free of cost. How do we make a living if the RTO does not hike the per kilometre tariff rate?" Keshav Kshirsagar, secretary of the federation, asked.

The RTO had on August 29, 2013, listed the rates for ambulances. According to the rate card, if a Maruti Van is used as an ambulance, the rate should be Rs 9 per km, while a Tata Sumo can charge Rs 10 per km.

Admitting that not many ambulance owners were aware about the new tariff, federation president Nana Kshirsagar blamed the RTO for this, saying the latter did not involve them in any of its meetings before issuing the tariff card. Owners of nearly 3,000 ambulances in Pune district are registered with the federation. Kshirsagar said they were demanding a minimum of Rs 16 per km rate, threatening to launch an agitation if the rates were not revised.

Rafiq Mullah, secretary of the Poona Ambulance Owners' Association that operates from Sassoon General Hospital, said the tariff card was unjust. "According to the rates, the charge for travelling a distance of up to 50 km is only Rs 250. This does not even cover my diesel cost," he said.

Mullah pointed out that patients coming to hospitals like Sassoon were usually poor and not charged for the service. Moreover, he added, unlike other modes of transport ambulance services were not necessarily required on a daily basis.

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