07 Jul 2024  |   06:20am IST

BUS STANDS IN SHAMBLES

The buses operated by State-owned Kadamba Transport Corporation Limited (KTCL), is the lifeline for hundreds of Goans, who travel far and wide by road within the State in these buses. But the commuters are facing hardships due to the sorry state of the bus stands at various locations. ANIL KUMAR MISHRA finds out what ails the bus stands and what needs to be done to reverse the slide
BUS STANDS  IN SHAMBLES

The Kadamba Transport Corporation Ltd (KTCL) is a state transport undertaking of the State of Goa. It was established in the year 1980 under Companies Act, 1956 with the objective to provide safe, reliable, comfortable, punctual, effective and efficient passenger transport to the traveling public.

Unfortunately, the bus stops, which are integral to providing efficient service to the commuters, are crying for attention. The KTCL is 44-year-old, but the commuters are still left struggling with crumbling infrastructure. 

Most of the bus stands which are thronged by hundreds of commuters everyday, are in dilapidated condition. At most of the bus stands, the passengers don’t have proper facilities at the shed. There are no proper signages at bus bays notifying buses departing to various routes. Several passengers are left in the scorching heat or in the rains waiting for their buses to arrive. 

The Corporation, which has 16 bus stands across the State, namely Panaji, Margao, Ponda, Vasco, Mapusa, Marcel, Sanquelim, Bicholim, Assonora, Honda, Cuncolim, Canacona, Shiroda, Curchorem, Valpoi and Pernem Bus Stand, has both intra-state and intercity bus services to Maharashtra and Karnataka.

While the government boasts of having introduced new routes across the State, there is still no last-mile connectivity from the KTC bus stand.

The inter-State bus terminus in the capital city of Panjim is in bad condition. The pavements are encroached by the vendors, mainly fruit and vegetable sellers, causing inconvenience to the daily commuters. The platforms where local buses stop, require urgent renovation. 

Recently, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant flagged off six electric buses for the city of Panjim and its surrounding areas, but little thought is being given to the bus stands as smart buses require smart bus stands too. 

The road which is used by the buses to come out of the bus stand, is full of potholes, inviting accidents to occur. No wonder there is traffic chaos under the Atal Setu, as it is the main junction for buses to enter and exit the bus stand. Little attention is being given to cleanliness. 

The bus stand turns into a nightmare for the daily commuters in the evening as long queues are seen in the evening and people are forced to jostle with each other to get a bus ticket. The Panjim bus stand has also become a dumping site for abandoned vehicles as the authorities have turned a blind eye to this issue.

The condition of other bus stands too is not different. The pace of re-construction work undertaken at the Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC) terminus in Ponda, an important inter-State bus terminus, has been very slow. The bus stand was first inaugurated by the then Chief Minister Ravi Naik in 1992 and in 2017. The present government gave the green signal to reconstruct it with fresh amenities. But the work still continues even after six years.

GOACAN (Goa Civic and Consumer Action Network) has expressed concern over lack of basic facilities including toilets, for passengers at the bus stand in Ponda. According to this consumer welfare body, lack of toilet facilities poses significant risk to women passengers, who are forced to relieve themselves in open spaces such as bushes and trees.

The story of Margao bus stand, which receives hundreds of Mumbai-Goa, Pune-Goa and other luxury buses every day, is the same. The problem of garbage dumped by buses and passengers of these inter-state buses is becoming an eyesore. 

The bus stand has stink, filth, scrap and broken pavers which has turned the iconic old bus stand an eyesore. Garbage generated by the fast food kiosks operating at the old bus stand can be seen strewn all over.

Replying to a question raised by Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai in the last Assembly session, Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho had said that discussions were held with the Union Minister of Roads, Transport and Highway by Goa Government to monetise assets of the Transport Department at prime locations and take up this project on PPP Mode. The file is under submission for revised Administrative Approval and Expenditure Sanction of Finance Department for Resurfacing of Road inside KTCL bus stand at Margao for amounting to Rs 73,15,628.

As per another reply tabled by the minister in the Assembly, Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) was entrusted with the redevelopment work of KTC bus stand at Bicholim at an estimated cost of Rs 15,65,89,962. The work commenced on December 17, 2021 and was supposed to be completed by March 16, 2023. But till February this year, only 28 per cent of the work has been completed.

The minister had said that the development of the Vasco Bus Stand project was delayed as when the file related to it was submitted to the Finance Department, certain observations were raised. However, those observations were compiled and the file was re-submitted for Administrative Approval and approval of the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) through the Finance Department.

“Now, as per instructions of the Finance Department, Administrative Approval order is issued on 02/11/2023 and file will be submitted for EFC approval after obtaining fresh EFC proposal from GSIDC,” he had said.

The minister had said that as far as development of Curchorem bus stand is concerned, the delay in executing the project is due to pending statutory clearances, which are required for commencement.

“The plans of the project are ready and approval from Town and Country Planning

Department for the same is awaited. In principle administrative approval has been given for the block estimated amount of Rs.40.65 crores. Detailed estimate will be prepared for inviting tenders and project will be taken up for execution after receiving all requisite permissions required for commencement of the construction work. After commencement, the project will be completed in accordance with the work order,” he said.

Roland Martins, Co-ordinator, GOACAN, said, “The main reason for the dilapidated conditions of the major bus stands is that they have not been given the attention they require from the point of management and maintenance by KTCL. There is no bus stand manager appointed and there is no dedicated fund allocated for the maintenance of the bus stands. Although there is revenue coming from the bus stands, from shop rent, toll charged on bus trips, parking fees and advertising space, this amount is not channelised back on maintenance.”

He said GOACAN along with various departments have already undertaken multiple detailed inspections of the bus stands of Mapusa, Margao, Ponda and Panjim. However, not all recommendations have been addressed by KTCL. Inspections of the bus stands at Vasco, Canacona, Cuncolim, Pernem and Sanquelim are being scheduled.

He said the key areas like safety of passengers by ensuring the provision of zebra crossings for pedestrians, speed limits, fire safety equipment, electrical safety and proper signage need to be taken up on priority.

Finally, the Directorate of Transport has to exercise better control of the bus stands as the land of the bus stands belongs to the Directorate. 

“There has to be a Management Committee for each bus stand which has to have members from Traffic Police, Health, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Public Works Department (PWD), Town Police, Transport, KTCL and Consumer Affairs and a meeting must be chaired by the Deputy Collector at least once every six months. This Committee must liaison with the concerned Municipal Council or Corporation of the City of Panjim (CCP) as the case may be,” he said.

“The time has come for KTCL to prepare a road map on what needs to be done to improve facilities for each bus stand for 2024-25,” Martins said.

All Goa Private Bus Owners Association General Secretary, Sudip Tamhankar said, “The condition of bus stands is pathetic. Except for the Sanquelim bus stand, none of the bus stands are in proper condition. The bus stands belong to the Transport Department which has given them on lease to KTCL. KTCL earns revenue from the shops at the bus stands but does not pay attention towards their development or maintenance,” he said.

“The bus operators face a lot of inconvenience but whom to complain? Is there any government in Goa? There are no sign boards, toilets or basic facilities. While the government is launching electric buses, which are supposed to be smart, but the bus stands lack basic facilities and attention is not being paid towards that,” Tamhankar said. “A notification was issued for running electric buses, we had put forward our objections asking will it be proper to run electric buses when the bus stands themselves are not in proper condition?” he said. 

“The government is busy doing lip service only. It is only dependent on funds from the central government while the state government earns revenue from the shops which have been given on rents. We had also proposed that bus stands can be given to private bus operators on rent but the proposal was not accepted,” he said.

“When government talks about developing bus stands in Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode, why can’t private bus operators be given an opportunity to develop and operate the bus stands?” he asked.      

 KTCL Chairman Ulhas Tuenkar said, “We do not have funds. We are dependent on funds from the Central government. We have sent our proposal to develop four bus stands and the central government has assured us of support. We will raise this issue before Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari during his visit to Goa on July 12, 2024.”

“The bus stands which have been proposed to be developed are Mapusa, Vasco, Margao and Panjim. The inter-state bus stand will be shifted to the old bus stand. It will be developed at an estimated cost of Rs 70 lakh. This will be developed by the Goa Government from its own fund,” he said.  


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