The interior districts of Jharkhand, torn by left-wing extremism, may have to wait for some more time for better connectivity as the bus operators have so far expressed little interest in the government’s ambitious rural bus service scheme.
The transport department in February had identified 364 routes passing through backward regions across 24 districts, and wanted to start services by April 1. The government proposed the scheme during the 2016-17 state budget, and the cabinet had approved an amendment in the motor vehicles regulations to pave way for the service.
The department had also introduced several changes in the rules for permits — it allowed 20-year-old buses to run, made the permit process easier and increased the seat capacity from 22 to 51.
However, not a single bus operator has so far come forward to even apply for permits to run buses on these routes, officials said. In desperation, regional transport offices issued several advertisements to invite private parties, but to no avail.
“Bus operators have so far not shown interest in the proposed service,” joint transport commissioner Anjani Kumar Dubey said. “We framed the guidelines but it was responsibility of the regional transport authorities to invite and convince the bus operators for the service.”
“We held several rounds of meetings with bus operators in different districts. Several changes were also made according to their demands to launch the service. They were invited to apply for permit. But, none of the operator still appeared even for submitting application for permit,” Hazaribagh regional transport authority secretary Prabhakar Singh said.
Meanwhile, the Ranchi Bus Owners Association (RBOA) Krishna said bus operators are indifferent to the scheme only because the government is not clear in its stand.
“This year, the government started AC buses for cities. Bus operators purchased more than 50 buses investing worth crores but they are gathering dust for want of permits. In such a situation, who will dare start rural bus services?” RBOA president Mohan Singh said.
RBOA secretary Kishor Mantri said it was not easy for bus operators to ply big as well as mini buses together. “Besides, bus operators also get threatened by local auto-rickshaw operators in rural areas,” he said.
In a bid to link villages to blocks and blocks to district headquarters, the state government has already set a target to construct 2,000 km rural roads in 2016-17 fiscal. The proposed road will connect 700 settlements with around 250 residents each and 200 settlements with 700 residents.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of 4,500 km rural road has been proposed to connect 2,266 settlements with concrete roads.