The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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They bus it together in a drive to help others
- Philanthropy flourishes on wheels

They call themselves the Jatriks. Since 1986, they have been travelling from Thakurpukur to Salt Lake on the same bus, spending several hours in each other’s company, sharing each other’s experiences. Now, all 62 bus passengers — employees working in different Salt Lake-based offices — have formed an organisation to help the poor and the ailing.

They have donated medicines worth thousands, distributed blankets during natural calamities and have even helped the odd thalassaemia patient.

The exploits of Jatriks are heard in the corridors of Bikash Bhavan,Unnayan Bhavan and Bidyut Bhavan, where people know that in times of need, all they have to do is look for bus number WBS-2282, where members of Jatrik will be ready to bail them out.

Dilip Mukherjee, who was instrumental in forming the organisation and who is also a State Electricity Board officer, recollects how seven of them, all residents of Behala, first travelled together in a chartered bus from Behala to Salt Lake in 1986 and returned by the same bus in the evening.

“In those days, only one private bus would go to Salt Lake. We faced immense difficulties, before we found out that several others travelled from Behala and its adjoining areas to Salt Lake offices,” Mukherjee said.

Within a short period of time, 32 people discovered that they had a common, daily destination. Soon, they found a chartered bus to take them to Salt Lake.

“Initially, we used to share each other’s problems, and our joys and happiness as well. Then, one fine morning, we realised that we could do a little more than this. A young girl was suffering and we decided to help her financially. Each one of us came to her aid and soon, we were helping others,” says Ramesh Majumder, one of the passengers.

Recently, Mukherjee sat down with other passengers, all working in different fields, and decided to form an organisation. “Someone proposed that we call ourselves Jatriks and it was unanimously accepted by the members. Now, our number has swollen to 62,” Mukherjee added. The death of a fellow-passenger in 1999 strengthened their resolve to help the needy.

Bus passengers like Rita Banerjee, a doctor, K. Chakraborty, a resident of Chetla, and Krishna Banerjee, an education department official, have formed the core group of Jatrik. They discuss their problems and find out solutions during their journey from Thakurpukur, that begins at 8.30 am, to their destination in Salt Lake, that takes two hours. Many of their members catch the bus from various points of the city along the route to Salt Lake. “They also have their own agenda, which is put forward before us during our journey. We do have a whale of a time,” says Chakraborty.

The organisation recently donated costly cancer medicines to the Medical College and Hospital. “We know how cancer survivors help various departments of state-run-hospitals get medicines worth several thousand rupees. So we decided to raise some money among ourselves and help them,” said Mukherjee.

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