Bus unions claimed these stray incidents were a reflection of a bigger problem: certain routes were becoming non-viable as more than 30% passengers had stopped using buses amid the pandemic. “These are early signs of these routes winding up. The buses are losing passengers due to a number of reasons, including a large number of suburban passengers not going to the city frequently, people using alternative modes of transport, shift to two-wheelers and educational institutes staying shut for a long time,” said Titu Saha, general secretary of City Suburban Bus Service.
This is unfortunate and needs to be tackled before it grows into a more widespread menace. The demand for a hike in fares is an issue that may or may not have a rationale. But a descent into lawlessness should not be tolerated.
The Santragachi-New Town route has had multiple complaints against it. “We boarded the bus from Rabindra Sadan and repeatedly told the conductor we would alight at Metropolitan, Bypass. After some time, he said the bus would only go up to Science City. @KolkataPolice @KPTrafficDept pls look into the matter,” read a tweet by Ram Mohammad Singh Azad. A similar complaint was lodged against the Sarada Park-Anandapur mini bus route. “It is now plying only up to Behala Sakherbazar. But on its last trip last Tuesday, it said it will go up to Shakuntala Park. At Chowrasta, we were forced to alight,” complained Madhumita Banerjee on Facebook.
“Please send your complaint with all the details (your phone number, address, date, time etc) through mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your complaint will be examined, and necessary action shall be taken,” police replied.
Bus owners said if fitness certificates were pending, fewer buses helped maintain profit levels. “But once the government slapped a fine of Rs 1,500 and reissued the certificates, most buses resorted to such practices,” said an owner.
“The wait for buses has turned longer. Even when we find one, we are not sure whether it will complete its trip or not,” said Satyajit Chowdhury, a commuter. Tapan Banerjee of Joint Council of Bus Syndicate said, “We have written to Firhad Hakim, demanding state intervention. We want a committee to recommend fare revisions. We want diesel under GST. The tax concessions should be provided,” he said.