A city bus plies on Circular Road in Ranchi on Tuesday
If you thought that the city bus in Ranchi had only mastered the game of hide-and-seek, then you’re being naive. The capital’s public transport backbone has skilfully engineered a fudge show too, leaving the much-touted service in the lurch.
According to a study conducted by Delhi-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), 50-odd city buses in the capital ferry around 22,000 passengers a day. But, their logbook shows 14,000 or less, which means siphoning off of revenue in lieu of at least 8,000 tickets.
The bus fares in Ranchi range from Rs 5 to Rs 20, which means misappropriation between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1,60,000 a day. This means, the bus operators may be pocketing upto Rs 48 lakh a month and yet claiming that the service is not viable even two years after it was launched.
Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) said the ITDP survey was commissioned a couple of months ago because the civic body wanted to assess the nature of commuters.
Coming back to the core issue of city bus viability, senior RMC officials said that the fudging of passenger figures had been brought to the notice of the Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) that runs the service with the help of a private partner.
“While bus operators cry hoarse over lack of co-operation from the administration, they themselves cripple the service whenever they can. All complaints about running into losses and poor management are baseless,” said a senior RMC official.
Dhananjay Singh of ASK Security, the agency that offers manpower to JTDC to run the buses, played the blame game.
“The whole system needs an overhaul. Ever since the contract was signed with JTDC three years ago, minimum wages of drivers and conductors haven’t been revised. A driver gets Rs 137 a day and conductor Rs 117, out of which PF and other deductions take place. This apart, they don’t get food allowance, which is the norm in case of private buses. What I want to say here is that unless you plug such basic loopholes, you cannot stop money embezzlement,” he said.
Singh said that JTDC had made the rule that every day it wanted a minimum of Rs 1,600 per 100km. “But, what if a bus doesn’t cover 100km on any given day? In that case, they have to pay from their pockets. So naturally, when they pay from their pockets, they will tend to steal.”
Sunil Kumar, managing director of JTDC, admitted that they couldn’t stem corruption. “There are issues like strikes that need to be dealt with first. Despite manpower crunch, we are trying our best to run the service. Our main focus is to run buses without interruption,” he said.
Seventy buses had been procured for Ranchi in 2008-09 under JNNURM. The buses started rolling in 2010.
Should city bus drivers and conductors get a pay hike?