Around two months have passed since deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal launched the amphibious bus project amid much fanfare.
However, the hype of buses plying in water soon mellowed down as the project is still non operational at Harike Pattan, confluence of Satluj and Beas rivers, and there is no confirmation also as to when the project would come in to full gear.
Since the day of inauguration on December 12, 2016, the bus named ‘Harike Water Cruise’ is locked in a garage, housed in the office of Punjab tourism and cultural affairs department, which is the custodian of the project, located at the Harike headworks.
Sources also claimed that the department was not ready to start the operation of the bus as many legal formalities and other requirements were yet to be fulfilled.
The department had given the contract of the project to Amphibious Design India (Goa) and Krishna OHO Solution (Punjab).
In the partnership, the former saw the technical aspect of the bus, while the Punjab firm looked after its local operation. These firms were also not ready as they did not have trained staff, the primary requirement for making the project operational.
In spite of this, the bus was inaugurated under political pressure, sources say.
“Until or unless every concern related to the project is addressed, how can the bus be operational? It is a continuous process and needs time,” said Sanjeev Aggarwal, managing director of ‘Krishna OHO Solution’.
He said that the project does not only involve the bus operation, but also other arrangements such as setting up of a ticket counter, café, restaurant and ferrying of tourists from Amritsar to Harike through airconditioned bus.
“Certain legal formalities are yet to be accomplished,” he added.
However, he said that most probably, the operation would start from February 15 and Rs 800 has been fixed as the ticket fare for the bus ride. Also, Rs 2,000 would be charged from those ferried from Amritsar. “Except mini-meal, all other refreshment will be paid,” Aggarwal said.
When asked about the water level which was reportedly creating hurdles in operation of the bus during inauguration on December 12 last year, he said a survey would be conducted again to measure the water level in the lake.
The officials concerned too were seen on toes during the project’s opening, apparently due to the upcoming polls, but now, since the assembly polls have ended, they are reportedly taking lesser interest in the project.
When contacted, director of tourism Navjotpal Singh Randhawa showed ignorance towards the reason for the delay. He said, “I am not aware of the exact reason behind the delay of the operation. I will check into it.”
However, some sources say that license from Inland Waterways Authority of India is mandatory for any kind of commercial activity inside the water resources and same has not been attained for the amphibious bus.
They say that this was the major reason behind delay in the operation. In this regard, Randhwa expressed ignorance, while the firm staff said, “If it is mandatory, the department is responsible for it.”