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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

A bus stand in Zirakpur, and the death of common sense

Aarish Chhabra, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 13, 2014
First Published: 11:00 IST(13/7/2014) | Last Updated: 11:05 IST(13/7/2014)

An iron-and-bronze statue worth thousands of crores is the hot topic of debate these days. Some see it as the BJP trying to adopt the Congress’ Sardar Patel as its own Independence hero. Others argue that if almost all schemes can be named after members of one family, why can’t the NDA spend Rs. 2,500 crore on commemorating another hero with the “tallest statue in the world”? Well, is the BJP the B-team of the Congress? And didn’t Patel impose a ban on the BJP’s mother ship, the RSS? Why is history always so twisted? Can’t we spend all that money on better schools?

Anyway, there are hotter heads and cooler people who can deal with such monstrous problems. But as far as misplaced priorities go, I have an example to cite not far from where I live.

Seriously, will someone just tell me, what is up with the bus stand in Zirakpur? Who built it in the middle of an intersection, near the cusp of three highways, under a flyover that was actually meant to ease the situation, and bang in front of a bustling mall that has a traffic problem of its own? Is common sense dead? Is this supposed to be a joke? It is not funny, believe me, if you are one of the around 2 lakh people living in this poor-cousin part of Greater Chandigarh. Lakhs more pass through this area on their way to other towns.

The problem could be foreseen even when its foundation stone was laid by Progressive Punjab’s deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal in November 2011, just before the assembly elections that his party eventually won.

For the project, though, hiccups began early. From shortage of construction material to the poor planning of the structure, it was apparent that this was a mess in the making. Even in the name of a roof, it only has a sheet of some tarpaulin-like fabric that is already torn. It missed its original deadline of June 2012 by two years, and no big inauguration was held as it was declared open last month. The cost: Rs. 5.5 crore.

Yet, no tickets are being booked, no regular routes have been identified as yet. Only local buses — hardly any — stop at this bus stand.

The matter is in the notice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, which has been particularly critical of the authorities. It has repeatedly passed directions, including a threat of imposing a heavy fine, while hearing a contempt petition pertaining to Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh for non-implementation of traffic guidelines issued in 1998. The focus of that petition is larger, but the court has underlined the Zirakpur menace several times.

The court has been told by the MC and the police that long-route buses would not use the bus stand.

That means the town still does not have designated places from where you can board a bus to the Ambala-Delhi route or even for Punjab via P Patiala. In the absence of any feasible arrangement, thousands of people board long-route buses from one or the other end of the flyover or from the turn towards Patiala, risking their lives, and leading to massive snarls.

As for the meaningless bus stand, it does not even have a proper entry and exit, nor any service lanes. Buses must merge directly onto the main road and take complicated U-turns. Add to that, the numerous auto-rickshaws and taxis that stand next to its boundary, right on the highway. The menace multiplies.

The court has now sought a detailed plan from the authorities, but the damage can hardly be undone. MC officials say they now plan another bus stand beyond the flyover towards the Dera Bassi side. No one is clear where the land will come from. What can you expect when the incumbent Zirakpur MC is not even an elected body as such? The tenure of the current body ended last year, and the elections to local bodies have been delayed across Punjab for no concrete reason.

We do have an MLA, NK Sharma, who is from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and a chief parliamentary secretary at that. He is, in fact, quite the master in matters of land and concrete, being a real estate tycoon. One of his newest projects is a mall-cumbusiness centre, near that spot on the highway from where people board long-route buses. The irony is not lost on anyone.

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