Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) is looking for new service providers to run city buses in Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad, a service that has had turbulent runs ever since its launch in 2010.
Under the over-reaching supervision of JTDC, buses hit the roads between June and September 2010, using outsourced operators.
But, the service has been running in fits and starts, plagued by repeated staff strikes, mainly over unpaid dues, apart from sundry other issues ranging from harassment by private operators and auto-rickshaw drivers to lack of uniforms and medical benefits for drivers and conductors.
An initiative under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to improve public transport in Jharkhand’s three biggest cities, the service saw Ranchi and Dhanbad get a fleet of 70 buses each, and Jamshedpur 50.
“We have decided to rope in new manpower providers,” JTDC general manager Prasad said, admitting the services have not been upto the mark. He said new clauses were being introduced in agreements to keep prospective service providers in check and not allow them a free run as has been the case till now.
Prasad told The Telegraph that the corporation would soon publish advertisements for appointing new service providers following which the selected agency would have to supply manpower to run the bus service effectively.
He, however, was reluctant to spell out what the clauses would be.
At present, the outsourced agency in Ranchi is ASK Security, while in Dhanbad it is Rider Security.
In Jamshedpur, JSTDC is running the buses on its own for the last couple of weeks after service provider Capital Security opted out, threatening to drag the government body to court over arrears.
One of the prime reasons for JTDC not being able to run the service on its own is lack of manpower, followed by the state urban development department’s indecisiveness in handing over the job to respective urban civic bodies, which in turn have expressed their inability to take on the task because of staff shortage.
Notably, amid all the mismanagement, the state has been unable to utilise earmarked funds for the city bus service. While Ranchi has unused funds to the tune of Rs 4 crore, Dhanbad had close to Rs 3 crore idling. Only Jamshedpur has used up most of the earmarked funds of Rs 4.13 crore .
The funds were meant for purchasing more buses, revamping bus stops and depots etc. While no buses were bought after 2010, revamp of bus stops was undertaken by agencies roped in by RMC in the capital. However, the efforts fizzled out soon and the stops were back to looking dilapidated.
Speaking about the constant grouse of service providers that they had not been paid their dues, Prasad claimed to the contrary. “We were allotted Rs 50 lakh by the urban development department recently. We paid pending dues to the service providers in all three places. Besides, we need to buy tyres for most of the buses, funds for which would be arranged from the urban development departments grant,” he said.
Incidentally, the services were supposed to be run on break-even basis — expenditure should be either less or equal than the daily income from each city bus. However, the entire service has been a loss-making venture till now with staff employed by the service providers deliberately showing less revenue, in some cases not even issuing tickets to all commuters.
Prasad said the new clauses would make it mandatory for the service provider to generate profits.
Will new operators improve the service?