For Ryan (name changed on request) and many others like him the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) bus is no less than the ship of the desert.
With taxis off the roads owing to the ongoing closure in the Hills, the three 3 NBSTC buses plying from Siliguri to Darjeeling and back are the only means of travel for the general public.
The usually empty NBSTC buses on normal days have been ferrying double the capacity of passengers during this bandh.
Ryan, along with his two friends, from UK had arrived in Siliguri on Sunday.
“We heard of the closure but was also informed of the buses and decided to take a try. The bus was so packed that we had to stand all the way to Darjeeling, a three hour long ride,” said Ryan.
With nothing much to do in the closed town, the trio decided to return back to Siliguri on Monday. However, the same fate was reserved for them on Monday too. “We have not managed seats. People were packed in like sardines. We will return back standing. However, we don’t mind. This is our only option,” added Ryan.
“Even if the government runs 10 buses it will not suffice. The buses have a capacity of 30 each and every trip we are carrying more than double the number of passengers. On normal days (when the town is open) we hardly have any passengers,” said Surojit Ghosh, conductor.
“I have an appointment with the doctor in Siliguri and so I need to travel. It is an emergency,” said a local. The buses have come as a blessing for people who have emergencies and need to go down to the plains or come up to the Hills.
“However, the overload is taking a toll on the bus. I am anticipating a breakdown soon,” said MB Thapa, driver. Similar is the condition of the NBSTC buses plying from Siliguri to Kalimpong.