City buses parked at the state depot in Ranchi on Wednesday. (Hardeep Singh)
The orphan city bus service has hit a new bump in Ranchi with drivers refusing to ply vehicles as insurance papers are yet to be renewed amid a debate who will run the fleet once Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC) takes leave from July 1.
None of the 69 JNNURM-sponsored buses that currently ply in the capital was spotted on city roads on Wednesday. Employees said they did not want to bring out the vehicles in the absence of valid insurance papers, which need to be renewed every year.
Dhananjay Singh of ASK Security, which runs the buses in Ranchi on behalf of JTDC, said: “I can’t say how long the buses will remain grounded as the reason cited is genuine.”
According to JTDC officials, the insurance policy of more than 90 per cent buses in Ranchi has lapsed while the rest will meet the same fate by this month-end.
Managing director Sunil Kumar said they didn’t have funds to renew insurance. “The cost of covering a bus for a year is around Rs 29,000. Roughly, Rs 20 lakh will be required to renew papers of the entire Ranchi fleet. And, we haven’t received funds from the urban development department since last June,” he said.
Kumar added it was only logical that the agency, which would eventually take over the bus service from JTDC, got the insurance renewed on its own.
“The JTDC board has decided not to run buses after this month. I have communicated the decision in writing to the urban development department several times, asking it to direct Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) to take over the buses,” he added.
Urban development secretary A.K. Singh had a different story. “Till last June, we cleared all funds. JTDC has not asked for any more money for the bus service,” he said.
On transfer of the fleet to RMC, he stuck to his earlier stand that it could only be done through a cabinet decision as JTDC was given the job to operate the buses in a similar fashion. But he could not say when that would happen.
Does that mean this is the end of the road for the ill-fated city bus fleet in Ranchi?
“I can moot a proposal of running the buses and getting them insured at our next board meeting only if RMC gives us in writing that it will take over the fleet within say three months,” Kumar said.
Amid all the confusion, commuters continue to suffer. “One feels cheated by the government. You don’t have proper roads or transport,” said R.K. Dey, a retired teacher.
In the other two mission cities, 15 out of the 50 allotted buses are running in Jamshedpur while the fleet size has reduced from 50 to 20 in Dhanbad. It’s to be seen whether the civic bodies there come forward to take over the reins from JTDC or they will meet the same fate as Ranchi.
The capital had originally received 70 buses. One got charred in a fire two years ago.