Agonising wait for buses in Calcutta – Telegraph India

Kolkata News

Commuters across the city on Monday had to put up with an agonising wait at bus stops as most private buses stayed off the roads and the ones run by the government had all seats occupied.

Autorickshaws — only two passengers are allowed in each — often proved a costly alternative for many. At some places, taxi drivers switched to “shuttle mode”, often carrying three passengers for a price.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said on May 29 that buses, private and government-owned, would ply from June 1 and be allowed to ferry as many passengers as the number of seats. No one will be allowed to stand.

Commuters from across the city said they had to wait at bus stops for long periods, wondering whether they would at all reach their destinations, as the government buses that came had no vacant seat left.

At several key pockets such as Esplanade, Shyambazar, Ruby and Maniktala, anxious commuters were seen waiting for buses till late in the evening.

Every time a bus arrived, passengers ran desperately to board it. On most occasions, the conductor would prevent them from boarding as all seats were occupied.

“I have been waiting for almost 20 minutes and not a single government bus stopped,” Gopal Chandra Ghosh said while waiting at a bus stop on SP Mukherjee Road around 11am. “My employer has opened his shop at New Market. I don’t know how to reach there.”

Unable to board buses, many wondered whether it was the right decision to step out.

“I have to buy some fittings for my bathroom from a shop on Rashbehari Avenue and it’s urgent. The government buses are full and autorickshaws are charging Rs 20 till Gariahat,” said Gaurav Sen, a resident of Narkelbagan in Kasba. A little past noon, Sen said he would have possibly done better if he had stepped out earlier.

Along most thoroughfares, including Beleghata Main Road, Narkeldanga Main Road, APC Road and RG Kar Road in the north, and AJC Bose Road, Diamond Harbour Road and Rashbehari Avenue in the south, waiting commuters had to hear “hoye gyachhey hoye gyachhey” from the drivers, as they drove through.

The transport department ran more than 400 buses on 40 routes in Calcutta and its adjoining areas, including parts of Shakuntala Park in Behala, Kamalgazi in Garia, Dunlop, Ariadaha and New Town, between 7am and 7pm.

“We tried to reduce the gap between two buses on a route to 20 minutes,” a transport department official said. “But since passengers are not allowed to stand, demand far outstrips supply.”

Around 9,000 private buses operate in and around Calcutta, comprising nearly 65 per cent of the buses in the city. On Monday, a handful of private buses came out but that hardly made any difference.

“We wanted to check the number of passengers willing to take a bus ride seating side by side,” said Rahul Chatterjee of Bus Minibus Samanoy Samity. “The response was not very encouraging.”