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A bus trip from Silchar to Guwahati via the pristine Meghalaya hills can be a romantic poet’s dream journey. When the bus traverses through the zig zag highway on the lap of the nature, the mind indeed forgets all the worries of life….However, the romantic in us often fails to take control of our emotions during these journeys because of the multitude of problems that confront the passengers during the approximately 12 hour long journey.
The bus services connecting the Barak valley with Guwahati form the very backbone of the transportation infrastructure of the southern Assam region. While the train services are even more erratic, the air connectivity is obviously out of the reach of most of the people. Approximately a hundred buses travel from the Barak Valley towns to Guwahati everyday and vice versa.
While this sector has emerged as a major money spinner for the operators running their buses, the lack of improvement in the quality of the services offered has been a major problem. Let us look at some of the areas where there is tremendous scope for improvement:
· Quality of the buses: The quality of the buses has almost remained the same in the last two decades even though this sector of the automobile industry has made rapid strides. Apart from the air conditioned Volvo buses, there are many more equally comfortable yet cheaper options available in the market today. However, we do not see such buses operate on this route. The operators blame the poor quality of roads and non-availability of parts and service for the non introduction of such buses. But when there is so much potential in this sector, why can’t the operators introduce high quality air conditioned services with better shock absorbers and other advanced technologies? The availability parts and services will surely become available with time.
· Fooding and toilet facilities on the way: The fooding and toilet facilities on the way at places like Adabasti and Ladrymbai are primitive and unhygienic. Some new hotels have come up at some locations, but they are also not much better. It is extremely difficult for women and elderly citizens to travel on this route because of these issues. Many state governments across the country create fooding and toilet infrastructure on major highways and earn good revenues from them. The hotel cum restaurant at Behror, on the Delhi – Jaipur highway is one such example. But the Assam and the Meghalaya governments have not yet shown such vision.
· Ticketing facilities: The ticketing facilities also continue to be old fashioned where you can only book tickets from the counters. If someone traveling from a bigger city to Guwahati wants to take an evening bus to Silchar, he has to approach a friend or an acquaintance in Guwahati or depend on the thugs for his booking. There are no online options available, which is weird for an era when even movie tickets are booked online. Websites such as www.redbus.com are flourishing today only by offering online bus tickets. Why can’t be the same replicated here especially when internet penetration is increasing every day.
· Overloading of buses: The buses plying on this route are often seen overloaded with luggage on the top, much beyond the prescribed limit. This makes the buses prone to more mishaps. Police and other enforcement authorities also do not control this menace due to corruption. Such a practice has to be permanently stopped to ensure the safety of the passengers.
We are aware that the pathetic condition of the highway, the frequent traffic jams between Jowai and Ladrymbai, the practice of inflicting night curfews by the local groups, robbery of the passengers are bigger issues facing the passengers on this route. We have also written on these issues earlier. Therefore this time we decided to focus on the measures that the operators can take to improve the quality of the services.