The Transport Department has tied up with private bus operators and even travel agents to provide vehicles for the devotees.
The department has at least six different bus stations — Civil Lines (which is the biggest terminal), Arail, Jhunsi, Agriculture Institute (in Naini), Phaphamau and K P College bus stand (in the main city) — in the city from where Kumbh special buses, apart from the regular service, operate. On any normal day, the department runs around 600 special buses. However, all the depots wore a deserted look today.
“At least the services for Kumbh should have been spared. It is such a huge event and people keep coming to Sangam. The government should have ensured that the services remained operational,” said Hira Lal, who had come to Sangam from Ayodhya. His wife, mother, sister-in-law and two young children accompanied him.
“I got the bus from Ayodhya and reached here early in the morning. But now I am wondering how I will go back. The only option left, it appears, is to hire a private vehicle,” said Lal.
Vijay Bahadur Singh, a roadways bus driver from Pratapgarh, said he was stranded in Allahabad and couldn’t return home. “I brought passengers to the Kumbh area around midnight from Pratapgarh. Ideally, I should have gone back by now. I don’t know where to spend the night and when the will services resume,” said Singh at Jhunsi bus station.
Gaining from the strike were those deploying their vehicles, mostly MUVs and even tempos. “It usually costs Rs 72 per person for a to-and-fro journey from my village in Kaushambi. But this is the first time I have been forced to hire a vehicle. For five persons, I will be paying Rs 2,000,” said Shri Narayan Singh of Kaushambi, about to leave the Parade area in Kumbh.
The locals too bore the brunt of the strike. “We had to pay Rs 30 per person to the tempo, even though the normal fare is only Rs 15. Plus, they were packing their vehicles with passengers, as if we were animals,” said Brijesh Shukla of Jasra in Allahabad, about 25 km from the main city.
N K Rai, nodal officer for the Transport Department, said, “It is true that the strike has affected our services because no alternative arrangement can match the fleet of roadways. But, as far as my assessment is concerned, the devotees are not facing too much inconvenience.” Rai said that more than 275 private buses and several four-wheeler MUVs had been arranged by the department to ensure that devotees did not face too much trouble. “Services on the Allahabad-Varanasi and Allahabad-Mirzapur routes were fine. But there were not many passengers for the Allahabad-Lucknow route. Therefore, very few buses plied on that route,” he added.
The banks at the Kumbh Mela also remained shut for the day.