Pilgrims headed to ‘Kaliyuga Vaikuntam’ or ‘Heaven on Earth’ had a nightmarish time in Tirupati right from dawn, with most transport services to the hill shrine staying off the road on Saturday.
While the APSRTC services were drastically reduced from an impressive fleet strength of 500 buses a day to 100, private taxis and cabs also stayed off the road, expressing solidarity to the agitation against the bifurcation of the State.
Cab operators refused to operate not only to Tirumala, but also to nearby Srikalahasti and Kanipakam temples and Renigunta. Tirupati-bound air passengers, who flew into the city, were stranded at Renigunta airport.
The APSRTC normally runs 3,000 trips to Tirumala every day with 500 buses, each plying six trips.
With the agitation on, hardly 100 buses are operated on the ghat road. Passengers bound downhill after darshan were forced to wait at Tirumala, while those arriving to the city could not get sufficient buses to reach the hills.
It may be noted that the RTC management has fixed certain parameters for maintenance of buses (and drivers too) and labelled them as ‘Ghat eligible’, as manoeuvring on the serpentine ghat road requires buses to be in extremely good condition.
Moreover, the seat occupancy is strictly adhered to and passengers are not allowed to ‘stand’ in the buses.
Passengers pushed and jostled to get into the buses, even expressing willingness to travel ‘standing’.
The drivers had a tough time explaining to them about such practical difficulties and getting them out.
“The waiting time has increased to 40 minutes due to the shortage of vehicles and we request the passengers to cooperate,” says APSRTC Regional Manager G. Maheswara, expecting the situation to get under control by Sunday.
People who had brought their own vehicles considered themselves lucky, until the demonstrators prevented the owner-driven vehicles also for a couple of hours from moving to Tirumala.