The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 26 , 2014
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Of wheel worry & holiday hurrah

The poll heat is all set to singe daily commuters in Ranchi, but may grant students a cool break.

The capital’s beleaguered city bus fleet as well as school vehicles are likely to be summoned for election duty at least a couple of days before this Lok Sabha hot seat goes to polls on April 17. While the obligatory move will weaken the city’s public transport backbone, it has already prompted several cradles to prepare a special holiday calendar to spare children the trouble of hopping on and off undependable auto-rickshaws to reach campus.

Of the total 70 JNNURM-sponsored buses, around 45 are currently in running condition. The rest have remained grounded since no one knows when for a litany of reasons ranging from defunct engines to lapsed insurance. The Jharkhand Tourism Development Corporation (JTDC), which quite unwillingly monitors the city bus service, has the patent excuse of funds crunch.

This fleet of 45 is already inadequate for Ranchi’s 10 lakh-plus population. And the poll season, expected to last the good half of April in the capital, will only compound commuter woes.

Dhananjay Singh of ASK Security Services, the private agency entrusted with city bus operations in Ranchi by JTDC, said listing of buses for poll duty had been done. “We are yet to receive exact dates from the district administration, but have done our bit. I think more than half the buses will be pressed into service. So, commuters will face problems for certain,” he added.

Ranchi resident and sales representative Sudhir Singh said that although city buses were ill maintained, they were a better bet than fleecing auto-rickshaws. “If you are travelling daily, you have to mind your pocket too. For instance, an auto charges almost double the bus fare on the Dhurwa-Kutchery route. During elections, when buses will be rarer, god knows what the auto drivers will charge us,” Singh expressed his concerns.

Schoolchildren, however, will be spared the travel blues. Many cradles, which will have to lend their student-ferrying fleet for the polls, are mulling a week-long holiday.

Principal of DAV-Gandhinagar S.K. Sinha said all their 12 buses would be summoned for the elections. “According to information, the buses will be away from April 13 and are expected to return by April 19. Without the fleet, travelling will be difficult for students. We are mulling a break for a week,” he said.

Sinha added that suspension of classes for the brief period would not affect syllabus. “As it is, April 13 is a Sunday, April 14 is Mahavir Jayanti and April 18 is Good Friday. So technically, the school will be shut for two-three days.”

Bridgeford School has around two dozen buses, but its principal S. Chitlangiya couldn’t say how many would go on poll duty. “As of now, I can’t say how many of our 25 (buses) will be pressed into service from April 13. A decision on whether we will declare holidays will be taken when the time comes,” she said.