Illegal auto-rickshaws plying in the city are proving to be the bane of existence of the Amritsar city bus service which hit the roads in January this year after a long wait of seven years. This is evident from the fact that the set of 20 new buses that arrived in the city a few months ago have not yet hit the roads.
As of now, not more than 40 out of the proposed 150 buses are plying on the roads and Anantha Padmanabha Transit Company, which is running the bus service in Amritsar, has refused to launch the 20 buses besides refusing to receive the additional 60 scheduled to arrive anytime now if the unauthorised auto-rickshaws continue to ply.
Project and its aim
Announced in 2007 on the lines of the public transport system in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, the bus service was flagged off in January after several missed deadlines. The project had been mooted with the aim of decongesting the city's roads by offering residents and commuters a suitable and affordable means of transport.
Unauthorised autos main impediment
According to the officials of the company, the city may soon join the bandwagon of municipalities in Punjab where the service has failed due to unauthorised auto-rickshaws. Praveen Olivera, manager of the company concerned, said uninhibited plying of illegal autos and nonchalance of the civic authorities concerned at Jalandhar and Ludhiana had led to the failure of the city bus service in these two cities.
"If the menace is not tackled soon, the proposed Rs 600 crore Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) too will end up the same way," he said. Olivera said that as per information obtained through RTI from the district transport office, more than 40,000 unauthorised auto-rickshaws were plying in the city at the moment. "The city has only 526 authorised autos on its roads," he said.
Bus service on six routes
The service is currently available on six short routes instead of the earlier three long routes. According to the officials concerned, as many as 13 buses are plying along Daburji to India Gate route, six from Golden Temple to Meerankot, two from bus stand to various gates of the walled city, six from bus stand to Pandori via Majitha Road, four from bus stand to Chatiwind canal and six from the bus stand to the railway station.
Earning affected by illegal autos
If the officials of the Anantha Padmanabha Transit Company are to be believed, the city bus service earns immense profit on days the auto-rickshaws are off the roads. They said that on October 11, when the auto-rickshaw operators were on strike, they were able to earn as much as Rs 2.49 lakh. They added that the service was running in losses amounting to almost Rs 1.2 lakh per day because of the autos.
Municipal Corporation violated contract
Olivera said the contract signed by the Amritsar municipal corporation (MC) clearly stated that the MC would initiate steps to remove illegal autos from the city's roads.
"Nothing has been done so far in this regard despite the fact that the company has sent missives to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and the district-level officials concerned in this regard," he said. He added that though the traffic police and the transport office was issuing challans to drivers of illegal autos, it would not help the city bus service much.
Municipal commissioner Pradeep Sabharwal said as far as dealing with the illegal auto-rickshaws was concerned, the MC would definitely write to the transport authorities as the matter fell under their purview.
"The matter falls under the purview of the district transport officials. They should look into it," he said. He added that in case of other problems, the Karnataka-based transport company could contact the authorities.