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Hire hope for city bus

- Administration eye on student commute, smart solution for loss-making transport

Dhanbad deputy commissioner Prashant Kumar on Tuesday asked district transport officer Ravi Raj Sharma to write to private schools and companies for hiring JNNURM-sponsored city buses on contract, hoping it would curb losses incurred by the service run by Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC).

Started on October 2, 2011, with 70 city buses, only 12 ply on roads currently. The loss-making service bleeds JTDC some Rs 3 lakh a month, said an official of the corporation.

In this context, DC Kumar’s proposal to rope in schools and industry majors including Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL), Sail Authority of India Limited, Tata Steel and others operational in the district to take city buses on contract seems to be pragmatic.

The 12 operational buses apart, five more have been given to Deoghar administration. But, a whopping 53 buses are grounded on JTDC campus with no takers. If the vehicles are not used, they would be reduced to junk.

Like in Jamshedpur and Ranchi, the city bus ran into bumps early on.

Reeling under manpower crunch, JTDC had outsourced the work of getting staffers — drivers, conductors and cleaners — to M/s Riders Security Services in Hazaribagh. But, the agency can’t pay regular salaries citing poor revenues from JTDC. Due to irregular payment, attrition of staffers is common. Many drivers and conductors have joined private transporters.

The 12 buses that continue to ply from Dhanbad to Katras, Baghmara and Sindri, respectively, are not profitable, say staffers. Earlier, four buses reserved for women and launched with great fanfare, were grounded within a few months as they did not get enough female passengers.

Dhanbad DTO Sharma said that this was a vicious cycle. “No one is ready to operate the buses. Conductors and drivers keep complaining they don’t get enough passengers to even keep the vehicles in running condition. So, it is good that the DC has directed me to get in touch with schools, companies and other organisations that hire buses on a regular basis. At least, there will be some revenue,” he said.

The DTO added that it was a win-win situation as many schools, including the DAV chain, did not own buses. “If they take city buses on contract, it will help JTDC shore up revenues. We will start sending letters to schools and other organisations from today (Tuesday),” the DTO said.