Thousands of commuters across Jharkhand on Thursday had a harrowing time after more than 1,000 buses went off the roads to protest against a regional transport authority’s decision to curtail the halt time of buses to pick up passengers from bus stands.
The South Chotanagpur Regional Transport Authority on January 28 issued a directive, saying that big buses plying from Khadgarha and Itki terminals in Ranchi will get 5 minutes while small buses 3 minutes to pick up passengers. Earlier, time for picking up passengers was 10 minutes and 5 minutes for big and small buses respectively.
Krishna Mohan Singh of Ranchi Bus Owners Association said a 32-seater bus on an average takes three minutes to pick up six to eight passengers.
“Once a bus leaves the bus stand it can pick up passengers only after leaving the city limits, as per transport department rule. Can bus operators survive under such restrictions?” Singh asked. The decision is arbitrary and a threat to passengers’ safety and will make a dent in the revenues of bus operators, he said.
“With such a directive, bus operators will compete with each other to pick up passengers and that can lead to accidents,” Singh said.
“We have called for a token strike to protest against the directive and if the government doesn’t revoke its decision, we will have no option but to go on for an indefinite strike.”
Kishor Mantri, a bus operator, said the state transport department’s refusal to issue permits for long-distance sleeper buses was causing the revenues of bus operators in the state.
“Though the Motor Vehicle Act doesn’t permit sleeper buses to operate in Jharkhand, neighbouring states like Bihar, Chattisgarh and Odisha have amended their rules to allow sleeper buses to operate. These buses come to Jharkhand and pick up passengers without any trouble. But bus operators in Jharkhand have no permits to ply sleeper buses,” Mantri said.
“If the government will not allow sleeper buses from the state to ply, it should ban the entry of buses of outside states,” he said.
The strike has inconvenienced commuters, especially daily wage workers, most of who come to Ranchi from Khunti, Lohardaga and Ramgarh every day in search of job.
Ratnesh Mahto, a commuter said, “I have a shop in Khunti and I lost the day’s income as I could not go to Khunti due to the strike.”
Regional transport authority secretary Rajesh Kumar Barware said, “Stoppage time at bus stand has been rescheduled because of the rising number of buses. However, we will discuss the issue with bus operators on Friday.”