Come September, and Calcutta will bid adieu to the fleet of smoke-belching buses that the state government runs. Subsequently, only Bharat Stage (BS) II-compliant buses will be allowed to ply within the city limits.
Taking a cue from Bangalore, the Bengal government has directed that buses that don’t comply with BS II norms will ply only up to the city limits.
“We do not want to give anybody the opportunity to raise a finger at the government, saying that state buses do not conform to the norms. So, we will show the way, and others will follow suit,’’ said transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.
According to the plan, the old long-distance buses of the Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) will be terminated at Barasat, Howrah, Joka and Rajarhat. Passengers of those buses will be brought to Calcutta in separate buses.
“We are not imposing the new rules on private bus operators at the moment. To begin with, the CSTC will first follow the rule book. We will first ensure that BS II-compliant state buses ply in the city and then ask the private operators to follow suit,’’ Chakraborty said. A government notification on the matter would be issued soon, the minister added.
Debabrata Kundu, financial adviser and chief accounts officer of CSTC, said: “We have already procured 80 Bharat Stage II buses and 300 new buses will arrive by August. We will also upgrade some old buses (BS I) to BS II norms. After that, we will not have to ply a single old bus in the city. The old buses will ply in the districts only.’’
Officials said construction of bus terminuses beyond the city limits had already started.
“Passengers need not worry about the new system. It is the responsibility of the CSTC to make proper arrangements so that they can travel in safety,’’ they said.
“It is not mandatory to ply BS II buses in the city after the modified high court order and the imposition of the new rules. But keeping in mind the environment, we are doing it on our own. We should have done it much earlier, but it was not possible to do so for various reasons, including an acute funds crunch. Now we are determined to do so,’’ the transport minister said.
“Most people think of state buses as rickety old jalopies that emit thick, black smoke. We want to get rid of that image once and for all,’’ he said.
The decision has triggered off a flurry of activity. Officials said the CSTC would procure 300 new BS II-compliant buses, and it is expected that the new vehicles will arrive by August.
A loan of Rs 27 crore has already been taken for the purpose from a nationalised bank.
CSTC officials said the corporation had been taking the initiative to buy new buses for the past two years, but despite several appeals, the finance department had released no funds.
“Since there was no hope in sight, we were compelled to knock at the doors of the banks and have managed to procure the loan for purchasing new buses,’’ an official said.
According to transport department officials, the CSTC owns a total of 1,200 buses, of which nearly 200 have been dumped following mechanical and other faults.
The Corporation usually plies 450 to 500 buses daily in the city proper.
In Bangalore, the entry of ‘pollutant’ vehicles is strictly prohibited. The movement of old buses is confined to the outer ring road of the town, and only BS II buses are allowed to ply in the heart of the city.