India is a strange land wherein strange people live. The people have scant respect for the law of the land and they break all the rules with impunity. The people love to break rules and corruption has become their middle name. And Assam is no different.
A few days ago, I chanced to board a Gohpur-bound passenger bus at North Lakhimpur. I was to travel by train from Dibrugarh to Naharlagun, but there was no train service on that day. So I decided to travel by bus.
After a long wait at the Dibrugarh bus station, the bus I was travelling in started moving slowly. Though it was a direct bus from Dibrugarh to Gohpur, it stopped at almost every spot where there were people, obviously to pick up passengers till the bus was full, with not an inch left to move one’s body freely.
The conductor and his helper would shout from time to time: “Lakhimpur! Lakhimpur!” Once a passenger was spotted, they would say “Ahok, ahok.” “Sapi jaok, sapi jaok” would be the next after the hapless passenger got inside the bus with great difficulty after much jostling. Even if there is no more space even to stand, the conductor would still shout “Ahok, ahok, Lakhimpur, Lakhimpur!”
After hundreds of stoppages on the way, the jam-packed passenger bus reached North Lakhimpur. Those passengers whose destination was North Lakhimpur got down with visible signs of relief on their faces. However, I was shocked and flabbergasted to see scores of commercial goods being loaded inside the bus at North Lakhimpur. It took nearly an hour to load the goods. The goods were adjusted behind the driver’s seat and the middle row, thereby completely blocking the front view.
In the meantime, I could see money in cash being paid to the conductor by the one who loaded the goods. Surprisingly, not a word of protest was heard from any passenger. I think they are used to such a practice. It is really disgusting. When can we be concerned and responsible citizens?
Interestingly, there was police checking also at one place. But the conductor just got down and ran to the police officer to show the vehicle’s documents, and the police on checking duty didn’t bother to check what was going on inside the bus.
The pertinent question here is, why are commercial goods being allowed to be transported inside a long distance passenger bus? Why are there no proper regulations? Why are extra passengers, who have to stand all the way, carried? Why is the seat limit not maintained? One passenger per seat should be the norm for comfortable journey of the passengers. But in most cases, there are more standing passengers than those having seats. The passengers face an endless ordeal while travelling on a passenger bus in Assam.
In West Bengal and the southern states, strict discipline is maintained and standing passengers are hardly seen in the long distance buses. In a short distance bus people can go standing also. There is not much problem. But in a long distance bus it is a nightmare. In most buses, if the carrying capacity of a bus is, say, 60, there will be not less than 80 to 90 passengers. This overloading can cause accidents at any time.
Paradoxically, the people will blame the government if an unfortunate accident takes place. We are very good at blaming the government at the drop of a hat. It is the easiest thing to do. But it is wrong and uncalled for. We should intervene whenever we see that unethical and unlawful practices are going on inside a passenger bus. The onus is not only on the government but on every individual to ensure that passengers travel comfortably and safely. Each soul is potentially divine and everybody should contribute their mite to ensure the safety of passengers.