Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal waves at the crowd after flagging off the AC bus service in Guwahati on Sunday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Sept. 4: The Sarbananda Sonowal government today set in motion its plans to cure the ills afflicting the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC).
The state-owned corporation is currently saddled with a loss of Rs 700 crore and 400 defunct buses.
While flagging off 46 air-conditioned buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission Phase-II here today, the chief minister underlined that punctuality, passenger-friendly behaviour, regular maintenance, cleanliness and transparency hold the key to the success of the ASTC bus service. "It is the collective duty of all stakeholders, including passengers, to keep the buses clean. These buses should act as messengers and promote the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the state," he said.
The new buses, which will ply between Guwahati and peripheral towns like Mangaldoi, Nagaon and Nalbari, had pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sonowal on them, promising the development of Assam.
Sonowal said his government's focus was on turning ASTC into a key revenue earning department.
Transport and industry minister Chandra Mohan Patowary used the opportunity to convey to the ASTC employees to shape up or ship out if they are unwilling to be a part of the fresh initiative to revive the corporation.
"The chief minister has appointed five doctors - myself, commissioner and secretary (transport) Ashutosh Agnihotri, transport commissioner Puru Gupta, ASTC managing director A.P. Tiwari and director of inland water transport Bharat Bhushan Choudhury - to cure the ailing transport department, including the ASTC," he said.
"It is very sad that the number of buses run by the ASTC has come down from 1,100 to 700 with 400 defunct buses lying in the garage. We will bring the buses, which are repairable, on the road again," he said.
The transport minister said according to the directions of the chief minister, they were working on a plan to reform the transport department. He, however, cautioned that it can't be done overnight and it would take some time since it had been plagued by ills since 1970s.
"Unlike in the past, there will be no pressure on you to satisfy the minister (read paying bribes) except the pressure to perform. Be part of this reforms or be ready to go on voluntary retirement scheme," the minister told the transport department employees.
Ashutosh Agnihotri said in the next phase, another 56 AC buses would be added to the ASTC's fleet, which will be used to improve bus connectivity in Upper Assam, Barak Valley, North Bank and the hill districts. Agnihotri and Tiwari also committed themselves to transforming the department.