Some 90 private buses in north Bengal went off roads as their owners started a five-day bus strike from Saturday, alleging civic authorities of Dalkhola, a town in North Dinajpur at the junction of NH12 and NH27, are forcing them to move through the town instead of a bypass that links the highways.
For decades, Dalkhola was synonymous with traffic jams because a railway level crossing that cuts the town. Every day, around 100 trains move through the route. As the crossing is closed frequently, regular traffic halts.
A few months back, a bypass with a road overbridge was opened on the route. Since then, trucks and other heavy vehicles and even buses moved through the bypass.
However, recently, themunicipality and the police are forcing buses to move through the town along the old route, Plabon Pramanik, the secretary of the Raiganj Bus Minibus Welfare Association, said.
“We are paying toll and have every right to use the bypass but we are being forced to move through the town. As a result, our buses are getting stuck at the railway level crossing and can’t reach destinations like Siliguri, on time. That is why we have resorted to the strike. If no decision is made in these five days, we will intensify our movement,” said Pramanik.
He said that from today, all such private buses that move through Dalkhola from Darjeeling, Malda, North, and South Dinajpur districts will remain off the roads. Altogether, around 90 private buses run in the route, mostly to Siliguri, from these four districts.
Swadesh Sarkar, the chairman of Dalkhola municipality, responded to the bus owners with a different explanation.
“There is a clear instruction from the transport department that all buses, barring long-distance express ones, will have to move through Dalkhola town. As these buses were not entering the town, local residents and people travelling to Dalkhola faced inconveniences as both ends of the bypass are on the outskirts of the town,” he said.
“Unlike earlier, there is no traffic jam in Dalkhola now as trucks and private vehicles move through the bypass,” added Sarkar.
The strike left thousands of people, including daily commuters, inconvenienced on Saturday, as they had to only rely on government buses to reach their workplaces and back.
Officials of the district administration said they were trying to resolve the issue.
“Dalkhola residents are facing problems as private buses are not entering the town. Soon, a meeting will be held with all persons concerned to resolve it,” said Kingshuk Maiti, the SDO of Raiganj.