Buses parked at Baridih depot on Tuesday. (Bhola Prasad)
Baridih depot — the parking lot for 50 JNNURM-funded city buses — is a picture of administrative neglect.
Purchased for Rs 5 crore, the Swaraj Mazda buses have been left at the mercy of the elements at the sprawling one-acre depot since September 2010.
Though only 12 buses ply on the roads of Jamshedpur on a regular basis at present, the rest of the vehicles have been used during the National Games, Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. However, despite that, the East Singhbhum district administration has provided little in way of amenities at the depot to allow proper maintenance of the buses that were meant to change the face of public transport in the steel city.
The buses, being run by Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) with the help of an outsourced agency, have had several spare parts stolen and are perpetually dirty, thanks to the fact that the depot does not have power supply or running water.
City Bus Karmachari Sangh president Ganga Prasad admitted that drivers and staff often faced complaints from commuters about the filthy buses but they were unable to clean the vehicles before taking them out for the day because of lack of water supply.
“We somehow clean the windows with water that we carry in cans from a municipal tap located nearly 500 metres away. Every bus terminus has a water supply source except this,” said Ganga Prasad.
To make matters worse, spare parts and seat covers regularly go missing as darkness engulfs the entire campus after dusk in the absence of lights.
“Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee (JNAC) had installed three lights way back in September 2010 but never bothered to provide the electricity connection to switch on the lights. We have brought this to the notice of the district administration several times, but no action has been taken so far,” added Ganga Prasad.
At the end of the day, the regular commuter suffers.
“We prefer city buses as the fare is lower than private buses. The staff is better behaved too they are monitored by a government agency. However, the dirt and filth is irritating,” said Laxmi Prasad, a college student who uses the bus on the Sakchi-Tatanagar Station route.
Asked why only 12 buses were on the roads, JTDC officials pointed fingers at private operators.
“Despite wanting to run more buses we cannot as private bus operators are the stumbling blocks. Almost everyday they abuse our drivers and even snatch away passengers after threatening the staff. These problems could have been avoided if the administration gave us a permanent terminus. At present we have to be on the road and face harassment from police and private operators,” said an official on condition of anonymity.
JTDC managing director Sunil Kumar too admitted the problems plaguing the Baridih depot. “We would be holding a meeting with the state urban development department soon, as we want the local urban bodies to maintain the depot. We have informed the district administration about allocating a permanent terminus,” said the MD.
Additional district magistrate (law and order) Ajit Shanker said they would be holding a meeting with the district transport officer and JNAC to utilise a vacant plot behind Sitaramdera bus terminus for a permanent terminus.