Kolkata: Vendors depend on buses to reach markets | Kolkata News

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KOLKATA: Buses plying on six city routes — to cater to personnel serving in essential services — are now doubling up as modes for transporting goods and keeping the crucial supply chain alive. For a lot of vendors trying to reach city markets in absence of goods carrying vehicles, these buses are serving as a lifeline by ensuring last-mile connectivity.

A few days into the lockdown, the state chalked out six bus routes to facilitate movement of personnel attached to essential services, including medical and para-medical staff, people working in medicine, grocery or those working with cooking gas dealers, petrol pumps and delivery men. Since these buses are connecting some major markets on the way, a lot of vendors are also travelling on them with their merchandise. “Though these buses are not meant for transporting goods, we end up playing a role in keeping the supply-chain alive,” said an officer of West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC).
With the city’s goods carriage network in a shambles due to the absence of drivers and helpers, WBTC is facilitating the transportation of small items without causing any hassle to commuters. At least three bus routes touch upon Howrah and Burrabazar, and two go via Sealdah. Markets in the extreme north at Barasat and at the extreme south in Kamalgazi and Joka are also connected by buses. “”We are running more than 100 buses so that people working in the essential services don’t get stuck on the roads,” said another officer.
This became a boon for shop owners and vendors since the truckers in the state are struggling with only 40% of the 3 lakh-strong fleet being operational at present. The manpower shortage, truckers said, has hampered even the relief distribution work.
Prabir Chatterjee, organiszing secretary of the Federation of the West Bengal Truck Operators’ Association, said that most of the truck drivers and helpers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have gone back home after the lockdown.
“Almost 20% of the trucks carrying non-essential items are stranded on roads. Another 40% of trucks are lying unused as drivers and helpers have gone back to their villages. A few days back, the state needed some trucks to despatch relief material. We were unable to provide the required number of vehicles due to a shortage of drivers,” he said.
Meanwhile, private bus owners have deployed nearly 60 buses across the state to carry medical and emergency staff in districts. “We will be happy to press some more buses in service to facilitate goods carriage if the state asks for it. This is an unusual time and we understand the need of the hour,” said Rahul Chatterjee, general secretary of All Bengal Bus Minibus Samanway Samiti.

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