VIP Road: The ‘Disconnected’ Chunk of Guwahati
The rapid expansion of the city notwithstanding, residents living in the localities along the VIP Road feel “disconnected” due to lack of adequate transportation facilities.
Only about 7-8 buses make their rounds every day from Narengi Tinali to Six Mile compelling a majority of the residents to take recourse to share taxis. The problem is most acute in the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Ward No 25, about three kilometres from Six Mile.
“We need to wait at least 15-20 minutes every day for a public transport vehicle to travel to either Narengi Tinali or Six Mile. Despite having a fairly good road, there are very few vehicles, much lesser than the actual requirement, for this route. If one doesn't possess a personal vehicle, going to the major hubs of activity where people from here need to commute for jobs is very difficult,” Sayantan Debnath, a student residing at a rented house in Magzine, a locality of the area, said.
The two-lane VIP road, that starts from Six Mile in Ward No 31 after passing through Chachal area enters Ward No 25 and then meanders through the newly populated Borbari, Magzine, Vishu Nagar and Pathar Quarry. The road is linked to Mother Teresa Road at Narengi Tinali.
But share taxis also have their own problems, as Suheli Choudhury, a student living in Vishnu Nagar, said. “Often, the share taxis remain overcrowded. They are supposed to ferry two persons in the front and eight more behind. But, quite often, these taxis are over-loaded.”
The share taxi drivers, however, are of the view that they cannot afford to offer the service without ensuring that all passengers are on board.
“Sometimes, we don’t find any passenger on the way. We cannot take the risk of getting more passengers on the way as we run on a low profit margin. So, seats only clear up if someone gets down along the way,” Munna Deka, a share taxi driver said.
The fare for covering the eight kilometre stretch of VIP road per passenger is Rs 10.
Basic GMC amenities lacking: residents
Though repair works have started on the VIP Road, patches are very often found with potholes resulting in diversion of traffic in the affected areas to a single lane, the residents complained. They also feel that GMC has been “reluctant” to provide the basic enmities to them.
Their complaints include lack of potable water distribution, streetlights and irregular garbage collection – the three basic services the department is supposed to provide.
“The roads are being constructed because the big trucks coming from the highway cause traffic jams here. This has nothing to do with the well-being of the residents here. We are still battling for basic amenities," Sudeep Nath, a resident in Magzine said. He added that while they are solely dependent on deep tube-wells, several houses have to purchase water regularly to meet their needs.
Another resident, Swapan Medhi said "There are few areas along the VIP road where there are working streetlights. Most of the road remains dark except for the densely populated areas which again are mainly lit from the lights of roadside shops. But in the by-lanes, pitch black darkness descends at night."
Both Medhi and Nath said that residents have to dump the garbage at the GMC dustbin themselves due to the absence of a collection mechanism by the GMC.
Councillor pitches for intervention of district administration
Councillor Niranjan Hazarika alleged that the connectivity issue has been brought to the notice of the district administration. He was hopeful that more buses would soon be allotted on the route.
"This had been a long pending demand of the residents. GMC is not concerned with the vehicular movement and so we want the district administration's intervention," Niranjan Hazarika, councillor of Ward No 25 said.
On January 2 this year, the district administration had decided to revaluate the bus and share taxi routes in the city and to provide more vehicles if necessary to provide better connectivity throughout the city.
Hazarika, a councillor of the ruling BJP in the GMC council, however admitted that despite making several attempts he was falling short of providing basic amenities.
"The NGOs are reluctant to go door-to-door as it is not a very densely populated area and they have to cover wider distances to collect garbage," said Hazarika, adding that he had moved the council several times for installation of street lights.