by Tahir Bhat
SRINAGAR: If you are planning to reach your office in the routine RTC bus service on Monday, please reconsider and make alternative arrangements. The government has deployed the entire SRTC bus fleet on Amarnath Yatra duty for a long time and the commuters will have to look at alternatives.
Informed sources told Kashmir Life that the public transporter management has asked the entire SRTC fleet to reach Jammu by Monday evening. The field staff has been asked to ensure the buses deployed be given all the necessary assistance to ensure they report to Jammu later in the day on Monday.
The SRTC fleet had positively interrupted the public transport facility in the last few months. On certain routes, it had pushed the costly TATA Sumo services out of business as it offered cost effective and quick transporting alternatives. The Government had pushed its fleet into the sector by denying a level playing field to the other players to upset the transportation businesses.
However, with the new decision of withdrawing the entire fleet and deploying the same to the Yatra services has upset the SRTC apple cart and is likely to trigger a crisis. Even though the Sumo services are likely to get in and reclaim their pie, it still will not help as most of these services are being stopped on the borders of Srinagar city.
The SRTC has 100 bus fleet in operation in Kashmir. The hyperactive corporation has been able to manage a better turnover in its operations by manage the bulk of the passenger transport. With the fleet, expected to be off Kashmir roads for three fortnights, the commuters will have to pay for the unreliability of the public transporter.
A senior functionary of the corporation, who talked on the condition of anonymity said the government has ordered deploying the fleet on Yatra duty. He said there are no alternatives to manage the routine in Kashmir till the bus fleet resumes routine.
When contacted SRTC General Manager Habibullah said his corporation has deployed 250 vehicles from its own fleet and hired another 250 from private sector for Yatra duty. Asked about how the corporation will manage the routine operations in Kashmir, he said they have kept a few vehicles in each district for secretariat employees and pulled out the others for Yatra.
Habibullah, currently operating from Jammu said that the corporation will be using the old fleet to manage the local passengers till the main fleet delivers its Yatra commitments. He said the corporation had already registered its fleet with the Yatra and made it public almost a month back.
However, reports on ground said most of the fleet will be on Yatra duty barring in a few cases where the corporation has prior commitments.
The move will add yet another crisis to the transportation sector. All the government run educational institutions and government departments, according to formal order issued earlier, are supposed to hire only SRTC buses if and when they require. Given the peak summer and most of the educational institutions are busy prep eating for excursions, the fleet withdrawal will put another strain in the processed. The government departments can, however, hire private transport if the SRTC issues an NoC in their favour.