|A city bus is crammed with old files and bundles of clothes near Shaheed Maidan in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Pop quiz: what are city buses meant for?
Wrong answer: affordable commuting in urban areas
Right answer: stacking up old files, storing soiled clothes and offering shelter to stray animals
Ten JNNURM-sponsored buses, which were supposed to be a part of the backbone of Ranchi’s ailing public transport system, are not just gathering dust and rust at an abandoned depot; they are being used for a litany of purposes except for the one they were commissioned for.
All the buses idling at the old state terminus near Shaheed Maidan in Jagannathpur, some 10km from the capital, sport broken doors and windows, but clinically do not seem beyond repair. Their biggest bane, however, is administrative apathy — a canker that has little or no cure.
A spot visit to the deserted depot showed that one of the buses (registration No. JH 01AF 7050) had been turned into a dusty library for reams of paper, mostly old government documents. Bundles of tattered clothes filled in the gaps. Another of these touted city vehicles (JH 01AF 7028) has become home for dogs and pigs. The broken doors and windows make the buses all the more inviting for these animals.
While the state of affairs may rightfully chagrin city commuters who often have to wait for hours to board a bus, the idling vehicles have also earned the ire of Hanuman bhakts in the area.
A temple, dedicated to the monkey god, shares the depot premises with the city buses. Since it is a big draw for devotees across Ranchi, the temple authorities demand that the place be purged of the eyesore of a rickety fleet.
“These buses are idling for over a year. The depot itself is lying abandoned since undivided Bihar. We never saw these buses plying on roads,” said priest Nagendra Mishra.
He pointed out that even the administrative office of the old bus depot was in a run-down condition. “The entire premises has been taken over by dogs and pigs,” he added.
Local resident Raj Sinha too vented his anger. “On the one hand, there is dearth of public transport options in the city; on the other hand, theses buses are gathering rust here instead of plying on the roads. For us devotees, paying obeisance to the lord has become difficult in this filthy ambience.”
Added Rima Kumari, a student of Ranchi Women’s College: “We pay more than double the bus fare (Rs 7) to go to the city in an auto-rickshaw. It is unfair that so many buses are not being put to use.”
Four years ago, the urban development ministry had sanctioned 380 buses for Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Dhanbad in two phases under JNNURM. In June 2010, 190 buses were procured for the three mission cities. While Ranchi and Dhanbad got 70 each, Jamshedpur’s share was 50.
Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) was asked to run the buses till such time that the operations could be handed over to respective civic bodies. The JTDC invited private partners and cast the fleet into serial trouble.
JTDC manager (administration) Alok Prasad denied the allegation. “Around 50 city buses are, currently, plying on different routes in Ranchi. If the rest aren’t plying that is because they are under repair and maintenance. We do not have manpower crunch either.”
He outright refused to comment on the buses stranded at Shaheed Maidan.