Bus operators protest against the anti-encroachment drive at Sitaramdera terminus on Saturday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Jamshedpur, March 29: Around 300 passengers remained stranded in the scorching sun at Sitaramdera bus terminus in Jamshedpur for nearly two hours today with operators resorting to a strike in protest against demolition of booking counters.
Over 80 operators, who run buses on different inter-state and intra-state routes, hit the streets around noon after Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee’s (JNAC), the local urban body, launched a drive to remove ticket counters set up “without proper permission”.
Sources said civic officials, with the help of police personnel, demolished nearly 30 such counters amidst strong opposition by the bus operators, who later ganged up and suspended services from the terminus.
As per a rough estimate, over 30,000 passengers avail services of around 400 buses from the terminus to destinations in Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal and Odisha daily.
“I had to reach Ranchi by 3.30pm for a meeting. I will miss the deadline and may face action for being late. There is no passenger shed, drinking water facility and the lavatory is not clean. It is a hellish experience waiting for bus here,” said Sadhan Das, a medical representative with a pharmaceutical company.
According to sources, the terminus is to be handed over to a private firm owned by Tarkeshwar Tiwary on April 1 for a complete facelift.
The Sidhgora-based firm bagged maintenance rights of the terminus for Rs 78 lakh following a bidding process in February. The firm is committed to provide pure drinking water, develop and maintain toilets for men and women, apart from ensuring cleanliness at the terminus for a period of one year (from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015). Also, it will construct boundary walls, for which the “illegal” booking counters need to be removed.
“The terminus needs to be made free from encroachments, before handing it over to the firm for installing basic amenities,” said magistrate D.K. Pandey, who was deputed to supervise the drive.
The bus owners, however, are not willing to give up “their space”.
Around 2pm, JNAC special officer Dipak Sahay reached the site and held a discussion with the agitating operators, who ultimately agreed to resume services. “They have agreed not to set up any structure now, instead sell tickets from tables and chairs till alternative arrangements are made,” said Sahay.
However, Jamshedpur Bus Owners’ Association (JBOA), an umbrella organisation of owners of long-distance buses, warned of further strike if the administration did not make provision for booking counters.
“We cannot operate in the absence of ticket counters. We have agreed to resume services on the assurance that the status quo will be maintained,” said chief of JBOA Upender Sharma.