A dial-a-cab fleet launched by a private entrepreneur in Ranchi last year
The JTDC is pulling out all the stops to put tourism in top gear.
After rolling out an ambitious central bed-and-breakfast scheme for interested individuals and agencies, the state tourism development corporation is actively considering a plan to launch a taxi service. If this nascent proposal becomes a reality, the service will go a long way to address one very basic traveller woe.
Dearth of tourist infrastructure, primarily accommodation and reliable conveyance, has been a major impediment in holistic development of the sector in a state that otherwise boasts picturesque summer and winter getaways, flaunts national parks teeming with wildlife and can create ripples with its rivers and waterfalls.
For the past 14 years, since the day Jharkhand was born, its transport backbone has suffered from chronic weakness. The JTDC is mulling one potential cure through its touted taxi plan.
“We have been thinking of introducing an economic ride for tourists for quite some time because not everyone can afford private cars to go sightseeing or travel between various hotspots. By the end of August, we will float tenders to empanel agencies that offer cars on rent. A taxi service will be convenient for budget tourists,” JTDC managing director Sunil Kumar told The Telegraph.
He conceded that a few months ago, they had floated an expression of interest, but the proposal had taken a back seat owing to poor response from stakeholders apparently because of “lack of awareness”.
Kumar said that the JTDC had once again sounded its taxi service plan because many travel agencies had evinced keen interest in the bed-and-breakfast workshop organised by a central agency and the state tourism department in Ranchi last week.
“Absence of proper commuting options is a big deterrent for tourists. Compared to other states, travel infrastructure is yet to evolve in Jharkhand. State buses are in bad condition and not many can afford private cars. Here is where we come in with our affordable taxi ride,” the JTDC managing director said.
Asked about the taxi fares, Kumar said it was too early to comment and that they would work out the same only after the tender process was through.
“Everything will depend on whether we hire one agency or multiple ones. In all likelihood, we will have to settle for multiple agencies given the diversity and distance of tourist spots in the state. Rates will be worked out on the basis of quotations given by prospective operators vis-ŕ-vis various routes,” he said.
According to a tentative plan, the taxi service will function through a centralised call centre at the departmental level. “We have already applied for a toll-free number for a one-stop tour information service. In a week or so, we may get the helpline,” said another JTDC official.
Incidentally, over a year ago, the state tourism department had rolled out a weekend bus service to prominent destinations in and around capital Ranchi. The project collapsed owing to “high running costs and poor tourist response”.
However, the JTDC is sanguine about the success of its taxi service.
“A taxi service is very different from a bus service. It can be availed by one person or a family at government-prescribed rates. Buses, on the other hand, need a minimum booking of seats to run without incurring losses. Also, plying of buses was restricted to Ranchi, which will not be the case for taxis. In fact, operators can hope for regular passengers once the service is launched. The footfall will increase and so will revenue,” an official predicted.