Tourist buses from Kerala stranded in Bengal, Assam


Kochi: Around 300 tourist buses that ferried guest workers to their home states from Kerala are stranded in West Bengal, Assam and other places after the several states went under lockdown due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Most buses are stranded at Domkal in West Bengal, Nagaon in Assam, and Kishanganj in Bihar. A lull in demand for return tickets, and the apprehension that buses might get stranded due to lockdowns in several states including Tamil Nadu and Kerala have forced the crew to remain put at those places.

With the services to Assam coming to a halt, bus operators have not been able to send money to the crew members.

Buses normally took four days to reach the northeastern State from Ernakulam. Tourist buses were also operating to various destinations in the north and northeast India from Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta.

Kerala-Assam services have been the mainstay of tourist bus operators, badly hit by the outbreak of COVID-19. Passengers were charged Rs 3,000 onwards per head. The bus owners got Rs 1,20,000 as rent for a single one-way trip, which required Rs 65,000 of diesel. Most of them have already paid Rs 40,000 as tax in Kerala.

Crew members said a few buses had been stranded even before the lockdown. It has been alleged that travel agents had cheated many bus owners, who operated their vehicles without collecting the entire amount.

The lockdown was out of the blue for several cash-strapped crew members, who were waiting to raise funds by operating return trips.

The crew members have been living in buses parked at Domkal and Kishanganj over the past 10 days. Ashique, a resident of Pathanamthitta, said they don’t have adequate toilet facilities. The crew members have been cooking their meals, and with funds drying up, they were forced to borrow provisions from nearby groceries.

The crew members are now desperately seeking means to reach home. They said they are willing to undergo any tests, including RT-PCT. They requested the State government to grant them special permission to return home.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.