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Babul buses for Asansol

Asansol, Aug. 14: The Centre has released funds to the Bengal government to buy 60 buses for Asansol, responding to a request by local BJP MP Babul Supriyo at a time the state administration is struggling to streamline the transport sector in Calcutta.

Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu wrote to Supriyo on August 1, informing him about the release of the funds and requesting him to coordinate with the state government for early implementation of the project.

The buses will be procured under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to boost the “poor” public transport system in Asansol.

“During the election campaign. I met many people who don’t have cars. They said they faced problems in getting buses after sunset. They have to depend on either taxis or autorickshaws, which also become scarce after evening. So I had approached the urban development ministry for funds to introduce more buses in Asansol that would ply till late in the night,” Supriyo said.

“I am happy that the funds have been released. Now, I will request the state government for speedy implementation of the project,” he added.

Supriyo said it was not safe for girls to return home from tuitions on cycles after sundown. “Travelling in a bus will be safer,” the Asansol MP said.

Around 70 buses, 200 minibuses, 4,000 autos and 45 non-metered taxis ply in Asansol. The population in the Asansol municipal corporation area is around 80,000.

Asked about the funds, state transport minister Madan Mitra said: “The matter is under process.”

The central funds, for which Supriyo has claimed credit, have come at a time the transport system in Calcutta has been facing a host of problems. Around 10,000 of the city’s 22,000 private buses have gone off the roads as running them has become unviable because of the government’s reluctance to hike fares. The state’s own fleet of 1,200 buses has come down to 800.

The government has got Rs 500 crore from the Centre under the JNNURM to buy 500 buses, of which around 100 have been procured.

The stand-off between taxi unions and the state government also seems to have worsened, with cabbies protesting frequently in Calcutta over “police excesses” and the imposition of a “steep” fine for refusing passengers. Taxi owners, who organised a strike on Tuesday, have demanded that the minimum fare be raised to Rs 35 from Rs 25 but the government has said there is no scope for further talks.

This is not the first time MP Supriyo has taken up development work in his constituency. Last month, the Union defence ministry gave an “in principle” approval for the takeover of the ailing Hindustan Cables Ltd, which stopped production in 2003. Supriyo had said he had taken the initiative after the Lok Sabha polls to revive the HCL plant and met heavy industries minister Anant Geete in Delhi.