Passengers wait for trains at Jalpaiguri Town station on Tuesday. Picture by Biplab Basak
Siliguri, Sept. 18: The disruption of train traffic on the NJP-Cooch Behar route and the withdrawal of services by a section of autorickshaws added to the plight of passengers on the second day of private bus strike in north Bengal today.
Around 30 trains were either diverted or delayed after a goods carrier derailed 2km from NJP last night. The traffic on the route wasn’t restored even at 7.30 this evening.
The autorickshaws kept off roads in Siliguri and Bagdogra.
The private buses launched the indefinite strike to protest diesel price hike and the bad state of roads in north Bengal.
The commuters had to board trains, which were running late, or to scramble for space in government buses today to reach their destinations. In some cases, the people had to shell out extra amounts to hire private vehicles for the travel.
“The situation became worse when a number of autorickshaws stopped plying in Siliguri and Bagdogra. As only a few three-wheelers were available, we waited for long distance government buses to reach Siliguri,” said Amit Ghosh, a government employee who stays in Bagdogra.
“If more public vehicles withdraw from the roads, the communication system in north Bengal will collapse,” he added.
Ghosh also accused the government of not taking any steps to end the inconveniences faced by the people.
The autorickshaw owners said they hadn’t taken any decision on calling a strike. “We support the private bus strike as the operation cost has increased because of bad roads and diesel price hike,” said Nirmal Sarkar, the secretary of the Siliguri City Auto Operators’ Welfare Society
“If some auto owners stop the services on their own, the organisation can’t do much,” said Sarkar.
There are around 1,200 autos in the Siliguri subdivision.
The rail disruption on the NJP-Belacoba-Jalpaiguri Road-Dhupguri—Cooch Behar route was another blow to the passengers.
“Workers are busy at the site to clear the route and restore the traffic. However, till 7.30pm today, no train has run on the route. Trains were either delayed or diverted through the Dooars route,” said U.K. Nag, the station manager of the NJP.
“It would take another three-four hours to resume the train movement.”
The passengers were furious with the railway disruption.
“Along with the transport strike, disruptions in train movement have complicated our problems. Till yesterday afternoon, the Dooars track was closed and within a few hours of trains started running on the section again, a derailment occurred on another route,” said Ashima Saha, a schoolteacher.
“There is no parallel track for either of these routes. The pathetic state of transport system in north Bengal is exposed every day,” added Saha.
The bus owners said they wouldn’t withdraw the strike.
“We understand the inconveniences faced by people but we cannot afford to run buses by incurring losses for months,” said Pranab Mani, the secretary of the North Bengal Passenger Transport Owners’ Co-ordination Committee. “We called the strike after exploring all other options.”