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Waterless and shelterless

Howrah station, the gateway to eastern India, is not only the most important railway junction in the region but also has in its vicinity two of the busiest long-distance bus stands. The station has been declared a heritage structure for long. Every year, money is poured in to maintain the Victorian structure. Inside, the station has all the public amenities one could ask for, drinking water, lights, cloakrooms, waiting rooms, restaurants in keeping with the majesty of the station. In sharp contrast, a few metres away, the Howrah and Calcutta bus stands languish in neglect. No less important as junctions of transport, the twin bus stands are visited by thousands everyday to reach far-off destinations.

The stands lack the most basic public amenities. The list of ‘don’t haves’ are long and there are virtually no facilities to speak of. There is no drinking water, no toilets, no cloakroom, no public address system. It is a wonder how these long-distance bus stands manage to function every day. Most of the shades built for passengers to take shelter in rain and sun are occupied by hawkers. Neither the former Left Front government nor the present Trinamul government have tried to evict them.

Calcutta Bus Terminus

The entire shade from where buses leave for different destinations of Calcutta (routes T6, T7, C13, C11/1, C11, C7, C5, E1, E2, E4, E5, S1and S2) is occupied by hawkers. Rice hotels, stalls for tea, snacks, soft drinks, mobile recharge shops do brisk business under the shade while passengers are left in the open waiting for a bus. “There has been no change in the situation at the bus stands since I started taking buses 25 years ago to my work place. While unauthorised hawkers make money by setting up stalls under the shade meant for passengers, the authorities prefer to look the other way,” said Chiranjib Chatterjee, 55, a resident of Shibpur who takes the E1 bus to his workplace in Jadavpur every day.

Dilapidated tin sheds at the Calcutta bus stand

Similarly, shades meant for bus routes 10 and 5 that go to Garia have been occupied. Both the bus stands are located near gates 5 and 6 of Howrah station subway through which most of the passengers emerge to catch Calcutta-bound buses. While hawkers occupied entire or part of the bus stands, vagabonds and street dwellers, near the bus terminus, have made them their homes.

The shades at the Calcutta bus stands from where buses leave for Garia, Khidderpore, Sarsuna, Parnasree, Kudghat, Barrackpore Court, Dum Dum station have already been occupied by vagabonds, footpath dwellers and hawkers. Besides, there is no water or toilets near most of the bus stands. There are a few public toilets and pay-and-use toilets. But these are so filthy that most travellers avoid using them.

The condition of the pay-and-use toilets are no better. With no cloakrooms, the passengers are forced to dump their luggage on the dirty floor of the toilets. “I had no alternative but to request the toilet employee to keep an eye on my luggage while I left for the toilet. Had there been a cloakroom, I would have kept my luggage there,” said Tarun Basu, a resident of Andul.

Howrah Bus Terminus

Thousands of people visit the administrative hub of Howrah everyday, some visit the Howrah court, others head for the Howrah Zilla Parishad office, the Howrah District Hospital, or the Regional Transport Office (RTO). Most of the people take a bus to the administrative hub. But the condition of the Howrah bus terminus is as bad as the Calcutta one. It is from here that passengers avail buses to Alampur (route 61), Uluberia (route 62), Domjur (route 63), Sodepur (route 57), Belgachhiea (route 53), Narit, Jhikira (route L3), Rishra (route 54/2), Gadihara and Sankrail. The raised platform for passengers have been taken over by hawkers.

The Howrah bus stand near Howrah Station. Pictures by Gopal Senapati

Tea, fruit and snack vendors at the bus terminus force passengers to wait in the lane where buses are parked. “There is virtually no space left for us here. The entire terminus is occupied by hawkers. I don’t know why they aren’t evicted,” said Binay Mitra, an Alampur resident, who came to Howrah District Hospital for his ailing mother.

There is a public toilet near the bus terminus but it is in very poor condition. There is no provision for water either. “During summer people need to wash their hands and face to beat the heat. Authorities should provide for a few water taps near the bus terminus,” said a passenger.

Botanical Garden – Dharmatala Bus stand

The bus stand is located near the first gate of Indian Botanic Garden. Nearly 60 buses, including Botanical Garden-Dharmatala minibus, Botanical Garden-Sealdah via Mandirtala buses, leave from this stand. Apart from hundreds of people living in and around College Ghat Road and Shalimar, a large number of students and employees use the services of this route to reach their destination.

B Garden bus stand

The bus stand has only five concrete shades. In the evening, most of the shades are occupied by vagabonds and the local people. There is no water for passengers or drivers and conductors. A pay-and-use toilet is located near the bus stand.

Danesh Sheikh Lane – Dharmatala Bus stand

The Danesh Sheikh Lane bus stand creates a bottleneck as buses take right from Andul Road near the Danesh Sheikh Lane government quarters. Nearly 40 buses, including state and mini-buses leave from this stand every day. The buses are parked on the road for want of space and inconvenience locals.

Danesh Sheikh Lane bus stand without any shade

There is not a single shade in the so-called bus stand and so there is no question of any water taps or toilets. On October 17, 2012 ‘Danesh Sheikh Lane Bus Terminus Prakalpa’ was inaugurated by state transport minister Madan Mitra. The bus stand, further ahead of the current stand near the Padmapukur Water Works, was built jointly by the state transport department and Howrah Improvement Trust (HIT). Though the new bus terminus has water taps and toilets, there is no shade for passengers. Since the new bus terminus is still unfinished the buses are parked at the old site.

Shibpur Tram Depot– Dharmatala Bus stand

Nearly 50 Shibpur Tram Depot-Dharmatala buses and Shibpur Tram Depot-Dharmatala mini buses leave this stand every day. Though it is called a stand, buses are parked on the roads – some on GT Road and some on Cowsghat Road. The bus stand has no toilet, water or shades for passengers. It is located in one of the busiest areas of central Howrah and the buses parked on G.T. Road sometimes cause traffic jams.

Buses of the Shibpur Tram Depot bus stand parked on G T Road

Satyabala – Dharmatala/Satyabala-Kasba Bus stand

People call it a bus stand. But most of the 45 buses of Satyabala-Dharmatala and Satyabala-Kasba minibuses are parked on the side of GT Road near Satyabala Infectious Disease Hospital and Satyabala telephone exchange. As usual, there are no shades, water or toilets, though, this is one of the busiest routes of north Howrah.

Ramrajatala – Dharmatala/ Rajabazar Bus stand

Ramrajatala bus stand is located in one of the busiest market places of Howrah. Ramrajatala-Howrah, Ramrajatala-Dharmatala buses and Ramrajatala-Rajabazar minibuses leave from this bus stand. Buses are parked on one side of the road causing extreme inconvenience to the residents of Ramrajatala. Traffic jam is a daily affair, particularly during busy office hours and in the evenings. The bus stand will be shifted to a new location that is now under construction at Ramcharan Sett Road.

Ramrajatala bus stand