The much-hailed special city bus service for women, which was launched with great fanfare last June, has come to a grinding halt in Dhanbad, exposing the administration’s inefficiency in managing the fleet set up with JNNURM funds.
The four all-women buses, which were meant to ensure safe journey for college girls and working women, can no longer be spotted on roads with the authorities blaming low profits, drop in the total number of city buses and staff unrest for the decision to ground the vehicles.
Ranchi introduced a women’s special city bus a couple of months ago. It plies on the Shaheed Maidan to Booty More route, the busiest in the state capital. May be that’s why it has been running smoothly.
In Dhanbad, Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), which operates city buses through Rider Security Service, started phasing out the women-only buses towards the end of last year. The service was withdrawn completely in December.
Dhanbad’s sub-divisional officer Abhishek Srivastava, also the chairman of district transport committee, said: “The all-women city buses were running at a loss because there weren’t enough passengers. This is because unlike metropolitan cities, the number of working women is far less in Dhanbad.”
As mainly college girls used the service, the buses, which had to make at least two trips a day on any given route, were mostly empty during one leg of the journey. “The buses used to get very few passengers on the return journey after dropping the girls,” explained a driver.
Rider Security Service claimed that they were finding it difficult to operate the fair fleet in the absence of a male conductor on the buses.
“The JTDC had deputed women conductors in these four buses. But for all practical purposes, the buses also needed a male conductor along with a female one. For example, how will a driver change the tyres on his own in case there is a puncture in a lonely place if he doesn’t have a helper?” said a technician of Rider Security Service posted at the bus depot in Dhanbad.
The four buses used to run on Dhanbad-Sindri, Dhanbad-Nirsa, Dhanbad-Katras and Dhanbad-Tetulmari routes.
The drivers and conductors pointed out that the city bus service had taken a huge hit as only 15 of the 70 buses allotted to Dhanbad under JNNURM are currently operational because of shortage of staff, lack of stops and bureaucratic red tape.
“Only 15 buses are plying at present on Katras and Baghmara routes as most drivers and conductors have left their job over poor pay. How can you expect anyone to feed his family at the wage of Rs 126 per day at a time when prices are sky-rocketing?” asked Suraj Kumar, a driver.
JTDC’s city bus in-charge, Dhanbad, N.K. Singh held the shortage of staff as primary reason behind grounding around 50 city buses and also withdrawal of the ladies’ fleet.
“We can’t run the buses on losses. Hence, we decided to increase the sale rate of the buses to Rs 16 per kilometre,” he said.
On the issue of lower wages of drivers and conductors, Singh put the ball in Rider Security Service’s court. “A decision can only be taken by their employer,” he said.