By Our Reporter
SHILLONG: The Shillong Transport Public Service (STPS), which was introduced in the State with much fanfare and was widely appreciated by the daily commuters, has now turned out to be the proverbial ‘white elephant’ for the Meghalaya urban Affairs Department (MUDA).
The bus service is in shambles with no buses plying in the city for the last two Sundays.
It is learnt that the operation of the STPS buses hit an all-time low ever since the Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) handed over the buses to MUDA on February 1 after the expiry of the one-year agreement.
Sources revealed that the MTC had written to the Government expressing its inability to continue the operations immediately after the expiry of the one-year agreement in November last year.
Out of the total 50 STPS buses which were under its custody, the MTC has handed over 36 buses to MUDA, sources revealed, while also informing that the remaining 14 buses would be handed over on February 15 after minor repairs.
The MTC decided to discontinue operation of the STPS buses in the city after MUDA reproached it for its inability to provide satisfactory services.
According to sources, senior officials from the Urban Affairs Department had, right from the outset, voiced their concern against handing over the STPS buses to the MTC in view of the Corporation’s ‘poor track record’.
“The senior officials were in favour of handing over the STPS buses to self help groups,” sources said.
The sources revealed that the actual reason behind the officials’ inclination towards the SHGs was not the poor track record of the MTC but there were ‘bigger stakes’ for the taking.
Sources have also revealed that MUDA has ‘discreetly’ handed over the STPS buses, including those given over by the MTC, to three SHGs – Mawpat-based Synroplang SHG, Mawlai-based Pioneer Transport and Service Organisation (PISO) and San Shnong SHG from Sadew area.
“MUDA did not call for fresh tender to operate the buses handed over by the MTC,” the sources stated, while calling the whole deal as ‘illegal’.
Sources claimed that this decision of MUDA to hand over the SPTS buses to the Mawlai-based PISO is in clear violation of the election model code of conduct since Teiborlang Pathaw, an Independent candidate from Mawlai, is a member of the SHG.
Sources also added that the two SHGs (Synroplang and PISO), who have been entrusted the responsibility of operating the STPS buses within Shillong city, have so far failed to provide satisfactory services to the commuters.
Meanwhile, in a sting operation conducted by a group of journalists over a span of one week, it was revealed that around 25 to 30 SPTS buses allotted to Synroplang were lying at in a deserted plot of land near a jungle in Mawpat.
Meanwhile, the news persons also found that many STPS buses allotted to PISO had been parked near the Primary Health Centre (PHC) at Mawlai Mawroh, without being pressed into service for the benefit of the commuters.
The SHGs, when contacted, claimed that were unable to operate all the STPS buses due to the high operating costs involved in running these buses, which has made the whole business unviable.
Strangely, it was found that these SHGs operate the buses only when there are bookings for picnics or excursions.
Pointing to the sorry state of affairs, the sources said, “This decision by the SHGs not to put all the buses into operating defeats the very purpose of introduction of the service. The Centre had come up with this project to provide the common commuters with an affordable means of transportation.”
The sources added that the SHGs were given the buses after payment of a minimum security deposit.
Incidentally, the few buses which were plying on the streets were also found flouting rules, since the conductors were not issuing tickets to the passengers of the STPS buses.