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VIJAYAWADA: The huge hike in travel expenditure is putting an extra burden on homebound people in this season of Sankranti festival. Private travel operators are charging exorbitant rates.

While the coronavirus pandemic dampened Sankranti festivities last year, the people are keen on celebrating Sankranti this time due to the easing of the Covid situation. People working in other places and states are returning in large numbers, as usual, to their native places to celebrate the festival.

The Omicron infections are increasing for the past few days. A worry is of a return to the previous lockdown days. Hence, before the situation turns worse, the people are keen on returning to native places and having the celebrations – billed as the biggest harvest festival Sankranti.

According to the reports, nearly 40 lakh people will travel from one place to another to celebrate Sankranti. Many people from Andhra Pradesh work in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore etc. Further, the locals of north Andhra districts work in Vijayawada, Guntur and other cities and they return to their native places during major festivals Sankranti, Ugadi and Dasara.

The reserved seats in all regular trains are full and a majority of the people are thus opting for buses and cars to reach their native homes. The APSRTC is operating nearly 7,000 buses and private operators around 4,000 services to various destinations in Andhra Pradesh from Hyderabad this Sankranti.

The AP and TS states announced holidays for educational institutions from January 8 to 16 so that the majority of students are returning to their native places.

Commuters Raju and Krishna said the people of AP working in various companies outside the state used to avail holidays for five to seven days this season. As the Sword of Omicron is hanging over people’s heads now, people want to return to their homes to celebrate Sankranti before the virus spread aggravated.

They will start returning to the native places a day before Bhogi. Hence there is a huge demand for buses and cars on January 11, 12 and 13. They complained that private bus operators have largely increased fares by 100 to 150 per cent. They said the RTC is also charging an extra 50 per cent fare for Sankranti special services and appealed to the government to help reverse the situation for the better.  

Transport officials said a special drive would be conducted to restrain private buses from charging exorbitant fares.

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