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Orphan city bus looks up to chief secy
- Meeting on anvil to end JTDC-RMC take-over stalemate

It is at least another week of ordeal for Jharkhand’s several thousand commuters as the cold war between JTDC and municipal bodies over the city bus service is unlikely to find a referee before that.

Unable to offer any reconciliation on the matter, the urban development department is now mulling a hearing of stakeholders with none other than the chief secretary on the chair.

“We are planning to take up the issue at the highest level. A meeting will be held with chief secretary Sudhir Prasad for a permanent solution. We are exploring the earliest possible date, perhaps next week,” urban development secretary Ajoy Kumar Singh told The Telegraph on Thursday, three days after the city bus went off roads in Ranchi and Dhanbad for want of fuel funds, and three weeks after it was grounded in Jamshedpur over PF dispute.

Ideally, the city bus fleet — sponsored under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission — is to be run by respective civic bodies.

In the capital, the Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) has long been reluctant to take over the reins from JTDC, citing one reason or the other, the latest being poor condition of buses. Civic bodies in the other cities are toeing the RMC.

Roughly, around Rs 15-20 lakh is needed on an urgent basis to revive the rickety fleet in Ranchi alone. Of the 70 buses the city was gifted in 2010, one was damaged beyond repair in arson. Of the remaining 69, at least 12 buses have weathered tyres, requiring immediate replacement.

“Every bus has six tyres, each costing Rs 7,000. For 60 tyres, we need Rs 4.20 lakh. Also, all the buses require facelift in the form of dent care, repainting, seat re-haul and window replacements. For individual makeover, we need Rs 10,000, which translates into Rs 6.9 lakh for 69 buses,” said a source in JTDC.

In Dhanbad, 55 of the 70 buses are in running condition, but need facelift like their cousins in Ranchi. For that job as well as fuel, the JTDC estimate is Rs 15-20 lakh.

“If RMC officials are unwilling to run the service because the fleet looks ugly, let them give us the money. We will send the buses to workshop for renovation,” the source said, adding that the JTDC board had already passed a resolution not to run the city bus.

Urban development secretary Singh claimed funds were not a deterrent. “I can tell you that government projects never run out of money. If you can recall, last year we gave JTDC Rs 1.25 crore for the bus service. Again, earlier this year, we provided Rs 1 crore. We have been loosening purse strings all the time,” he said.

The issue, insiders insisted, was ownership.

From the beginning, the JTDC was a mere interim agency, which has done its job, and now a resolution to hand over the service has been taken by its board chaired by the chief secretary himself.

“It is a paradoxical situation. The JTDC was entrusted with the service through a cabinet decision. So, its board alone cannot overrule the same. Ideally, it should have taken a resolution for a cabinet nod,” Singh said.

To complicate matters, the RMC is sitting on a letter from urban development on a special purpose vehicle (SPV), which alone can resolve the stalemate at the earliest. The department, on the other hand, hasn’t acted against the civic authorities for “dishonouring” a government communiqué.

“We have sent multiple reminders. The RMC board’s consent is mandatory to form an SPV. If we use force, we will be accused of arm-twisting. We will, however, issue a showcause,” the urban development secretary said.

As the orphan city bus remains caught in this morass of deceit and duplicity, the common man continues to grapple with commuting nightmare — sometimes hanging dangerously from packed auto-rickshaws and sometimes just walking to their destinations.


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