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Commuters slam bus ban

Bhubaneswar, April 29: Anupam Sathua, a Balugaon resident, who had come to the city this morning, slammed the state government’s decision to ban bus service between 11am and 3pm in the state keeping in view the soaring temperature.

“How will we go home if no buses ply during a particular time? We can make our arrangements to beat the heat. On their part, the government should instruct the bus operators to make arrangements to deal with the heat, instead of banning the service,” he said.

Like Sathua, many other commuters, who were seen at Baramunda bus stand around 12.30pm today, are of the view that the government’s decision is not right. Baramunda bus stand is one of the busiest bus terminals from where buses ply to all parts of the state and the neighbouring states.

On the other hand, a bus owner said they were yet to get a formal communication from the authorities regarding the ban. However, a senior transport department official said: “It is not possible to intimate every bus operator in the state about the ban. We have informed the bus associations through media.”

The ban on plying of buses between 11am and 3pm came on April 25, a day after the city witnessed highest temperature of the season — 42.8°C. Chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra had even convened a meeting with senior officers to check the preparedness against heatwave-like condition in the state.

“We have not yet received any letter from the transport department or from any other government agency, asking us to stop the service during a particular period. We got to know about it from the media. Besides, it’s an absurd order with no practical purpose,” said a member of the bus owners’ association.

Moreover, though the order was issued last Saturday, the department is yet to enforce the ban.

A bus operator, on condition of anonymity, too, said the government’s decision was a vague one, and it would affect their business. Besides, he said non-plying of the vehicles would affect those commuters, who had to wait for long hours at various stops.

They even questioned how the long-route buses would stop midway at 11am and wait till 3pm in the scorching sun. It would affect the passengers even more. Besides, the buses run on various routes, according to a scheduled timetable. Once the ban is enforced, it would become even more difficult to arrange time for those buses plying during the peak hours.

On this, a transport department official said long-route buses usually plied at night.

The bus operators suggested that instead of banning the service, the government should make arrangement to provide water and rest shades at various bus stands and stoppages. They can take the help of NGOs or youth clubs that have been funded by the government. This would help the passengers, who suffer a lot while waiting in the sun, said an operator.

“We are keeping bottled water in ice-filled buckets for our passengers, wet towels and oral rehydration solution for those who feel uncomfortable. We also provide water to the waiting passengers at various major stoppages,” said Debendra Sahu, general secretary of the All-Odisha Bus Owners’ Association.

The association has written a letter to the government to withdraw such instructions, which has been reported by media.

Many passengers demanded that the government ensure more AC buses in the summer.

For the past few weeks, the maximum day temperature in the city has been hovering between 40°C and 43°C. In most parts of the state, the temperature remains above 40°C with some areas even touching even 44°C.