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Where have all the buses gone?

Monday: Wait and wait and wait for a bus.

Tuesday: Wait and wait for a bus.

The bus strike on Monday only magnified the problems the commuter faces every single day. Strike or no strike, there are few buses on the road and the Calcuttan has to mind the gap between demand and supply to make it to office or college on time.

Operators readily admit that they are plying fewer buses and blame the state government’s refusal to raise the fares for the crisis. It’s just not feasible any more, they insist, given that the price of diesel has been hiked 16 times since the last fare rise in November 2012.

“About 1,000 buses have stopped plying in the last one year,” said Sadhan Das of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate, the biggest bus operators’ union.

How is the commuter coping? Metro listened in at three overcrowded bus stops across the city at peak hour on Tuesday morning.

Shayeree Roy
postgraduate student of English, JU

 

Rs 20. That was all that the Behala Chowrasta resident had to spend to commute every day till December 2012. She now spends Rs 80 for the same commute and yet misses the first class on many days.

She has decided to buy a Scooty, to travel comfortably, save time and cut down on expenses.

“The last time I travelled comfortably in a bus was 2012. Now buses are so infrequent and crowded that I have to change four autorickshaws to reach my university,” said Shayeree, who starts from her home at 11.15am.

Between Behala Chowrasta and Jadavpur, there are at least three bus routes — state bus S-31 and two private buses 21, and SD 4/1. However, over the past one year, the number of private buses has dropped significantly, from 25 and 32 to 12 and 14, respectively.

The entire load has fallen on the state bus which on most occasions is too overcrowded for Shayeree to board.

So, this is how she reaches JU these days —

■ Auto from Chowrasta to Muchipara

■ Auto from Muchipara to Tollygunge. Then, walk around 700 metres

■ Auto till Jadavpur 8B

■ Auto till JU’s gate No. 4.

“On most days, I end up missing the first class at 12.10pm. Often there are huge queues at the auto stands and it takes me close to 90 minutes to cover the 9km stretch,” said Shayeree.

The hike in travel cost has taken a direct toll on her family’s monthly expenditure. While her parents used to give her Rs 1,500 per month for travel till 2012, she now needs Rs 4,000.

“It is getting so expensive, that my parents readily agreed to buy me a Scooty when I asked for one last month. I will be getting it in February,” Roy said, while boarding an auto from Behala Chowrasta at noon after a 30-minute wait in queue.

Abhishek Srivastava
executive with a steel company

 

Srivastava, 26,has decided to leave home early and yet go slow because he can no longer find even a foothold on buses.

The Naihati resident takes a train to Sealdah and then waits for a tram — instead of running after packed buses — to take him to his Park Circus office. The tram is slow but at least it’s available at regular intervals and there is no danger of falling off one because of the crowd crush.

“Two months ago, I would come out of the station and take a bus to Park Circus. That no longer is an option,” said Srivastava.

He now has to leave his Naihati home early to take a train but he prefers that than getting suffocated inside a bus. “It is much better than actually getting crushed by people and reaching work exhausted and irritated,” he added.

Metro spent half an hour from 10.30am on Tuesday at the bus stop outside NRS hospital from where Srivastava used to catch a bus. All buses headed towards Esplanade and Dalhousie, and Howrah, were packed, with many hanging from the doors. Two among 10 buses that arrived with standing room were instantly packed to the brim at Sealdah.

“This has happened because the interval between two successive buses has increased so each bus is carrying several busloads of people,” said Srivastava.

Hrithik Mukherjee,
marketing executive with a telecom company

A resident of Jinjira Bazar near Taratala, the 32-year-old has to regularly wait for “at least 40 minutes” for an overcrowded 77A or 13A to take him to Park Street, where his office is. A year back, Mukherjee had to hardly wait 10 minutes for a bus.

On Tuesday, Metro spent close to 30 minutes with him from 9.45am waiting for a bus near Brace Bridge. There were a few buses at intervals of close to three to five minutes but on other routes and that too with people travelling precariously on footboards.

Mukherjee even tried to stop a few passing taxis and autorickshaws but none had a place for him. He was finally bailed out by a friend on a motorcycle who offered to give him a lift till Taratala crossing, around two kilometres away, where he again had to wait for a bus.

“Just to avoid a journey like this, my wife changed her work time from morning to afternoon. The buses are still less during that time but at least there are a few empty autos and taxis,” said Mukherjee, whose wife works in the same office as him.

A visit to the Esplanade bus terminus of 77A later solved the mystery of the missing buses. “Till November 2012, there were 52 buses on our route. Now there are only 21. If the state government does not increase the fares this time, even our owner plans to stop the service from next month,” said the conductor of one of the buses on the same route.

students and office-goers struggle as operators roll back wheels

 

 

What problems are you facing as a bus passenger in Calcutta and who do you blame for your predicament? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com