Residents of Mulavukad panchayat no longer wait for that last bus. That is because the last of the 13 private buses that served the panchayat went off the road more than three months ago. At present, hundreds of commuters are at the mercy of sporadic KSRTC services that operate on the Container Terminal Road.
The pitiable state of the 5.5-km long road that runs through the panchayat has made it difficult for buses to ferry the 25,000 residents of the panchayat.
P.N. Jayaraj, who secured permits for three buses to ply between Mulavukad and High Court Junction, said the potholed road forced him to sell one bus at a huge loss while reducing the other two to mere monuments of his one-time profession.
“The maintenance costs overshot the daily collections, which at the best of times touched Rs. 4,000. Earlier I used to lend money, but operating the bus service took me to a point where I had to borrow from others,” he said.
Pramod V.V, who till recently was a proud owner of two brand new buses, had a similar tale to tell.
The buses, which he bought for Rs. 12 lakh each and then modified to suit the narrow path of the panchayat, were auctioned by a bank because Promod defaulted on the loan. Promod now has to repay the remaining Rs. 8 to 9 lakh for which the bank holds him accountable.
Pramod attributes his woes to two factors — the bad road and vindictive attitude of autorickshaw operators.
“Buses were packed with passengers only during the morning and evening peak hours. Autorickshaw operators made sure we had no passengers for the rest of the time by operating just ahead of our scheduled services. Now even the autorickshaws have stopped operating, leaving the residents to fend for themselves,” he said.
Regional Transport Officer B.J. Antony said while the transportation woes of the people are a reality there is nothing much the Road Transport Authority (RTA) could do about the suspension of private bus services in the panchayat.
“RTA has very little powers when it comes to issuing permits in the non-nationalised route. Bus operators can surrender the permits and then get fresh permits in the same route. The liberal regime leads to excess permits making the service unviable for all operators,” Mr. Antony said.
Private bus operators in Mulavukad blame the potholed road for their unenviable state. We just want a decent pothole-free road; not a four lane road,” said a bus operator.
Mulavukad panchayat president A.K. Dinakaran passed the buck to the Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA).
“We would have done the maintenance work had GIDA allotted us funds. But they tell us not to waste money on maintenance works as the road development work would start anytime,” he said.