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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Vagabonds occupy bus shades

There is no dearth of bus shades in Howrah for passengers to take shelter during rain and sun while waiting for their bus. Some were built by the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) and others by voluntary organisations like Lions Club and Rotary Club. But half of these shades are occupied by vagabonds or drug addicts and a few by the locals who use them for various purposes. Other bus shades have a thick layer of dust on the chairs and floor and people cannot use them. “Vagabonds and drug addicts take shelter in these bus shades at night. They sleep on the concrete benches, meant for commuters all day long,” said Sujit Biswas, a resident of Ichhapur housing complex.

He said that for the last six months, HMC has been cleaning roads twice a day. They should clean the bus shades as well so that commuters can use them. A shade near Natun Rasta More was occupied by a fast food vendor who did brisk business there. When locals protested, he had to move. But he left his kiosk behind, blocking the entrance to the shade. Another part of the shade was blocked by a tea stall. “I board bus number 52 from Natun Rasta More to reach my office at Howrah Maidan. Sometimes, I have to wait for 10 to 15 minutes. But I cannot sit in the shade as the kiosk blocks the way and I cannot see the approaching buses,” said Biswanath Chatterjee, a resident of Bhattacharjeepara Lane.

In another bus stop in Liluah, a part of the shade is occupied by members of a local club who place a carom board there and play all day long, forcing passengers to wait on the road. That the bus shades are a haven for drunkards and drug addicts is amply clear from the bottles and glossy papers used for taking drugs that lay strewn on the ground.

Six months back, HMC built eight new shades in different areas but few of them are used by commuters. “The shades are built with the hard- earned money of taxpayers. If they are unfit for use by commuters for lack of maintenance, why were they built?” asked Gouri Bandopadhyay, a resident of Mahendra Bhattacharjee Road who has to stand outside a shade in spite of a knee problem. “Cleaning bus shades is not our duty. However, I will talk to the contractors so that they take initiative and clean them as well,” said Mamata Jaiswal, mayor, HMC.