The deserted ticket booking counters at state bus depot in Ranchi on Thursday. (Hardeep Singh)
The only government bus depot in Ranchi near the railway station recently banned vehicles from entering its premises, a blow to passengers commuting long-distance, mostly to and from Bihar and Odisha.
The district transport office called this entry ban a fortnight ago mainly due to “payment irregularities related to parking services”.
Now, long-distance buses owned by other state transport corporations stop on the road outside the depot.
Disembarking passengers don’t get access to any washroom, drinking water tap or even a shed.
A woman reaching Ranchi from Gaya on Thursday said walking on the road immediately after getting off the bus was disorienting. “After a long journey, one needs moments to relax and freshen up,” she said.
“I would have come under the wheels of a car if a rickshaw puller had not alerted me on time,” said Bundu resident Ganpati Mahto, who reached the capital from Patna on Thursday morning.
Depot superintendent (DS) Umesh Kumar admitted to the inconvenience but said the action had been taken on the direction of district transport officer (DTO) Rajesh Kumar.
“The DTO, during an inspection during election time, had found several buses parked on depot premises did not possess parking payment receipts. He also found several buses without valid road permits. He then restricted entry of all interstate and intrastate buses and directing me not to allow any bus till it submits proper documents and pays parking fee,” Umesh Kumar said.
DTO Rajesh Kumar, when contacted, said the depot was the transport department’s property.
“One (read buses) has to pay for its use. Till I am in charge of district transport office, those reluctant to pay parking charges won’t be allowed to park vehicles unlike the older days,” he said.
Former depot in-charge and Intuc leader Vidyanand Singh alleged some “underhand dealing”.
“If the interstate and intrastate buses don’t have valid permits, as they (DTO personnel) allege, how come the buses are able to enter the city limits in the first place? And when the parking fee is just Rs 50 a day, is their contention believable? Whatever the DTO and the DS are saying is false. The situation is being created to blackmail bus owners,” he said.
The state bus depot in Ranchi, during the days of unified Bihar, used to play host to over 100 vehicles, all under the Bihar State Road Transport Corporation.
After Jharkhand was formed in 2000 and the final division of assets made in 2004, the new state failed to run long-distance buses.
Now, the 13-and-half-old state can’t offer basic hospitality to its long distance passengers as well.