As the nearest railway station to Pamba, Chengannur is the most preferred destinations of Sabarimala pilgrims who arrive by train. The pilgrims can easily walk into the buses operated from the temporary bus station in front of the railway station. The 93 km-distance can be travelled in three hours. But concerns have been raised from many corners regarding the Pamba service of KSRTC from here this season.

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) depot here could fetch a record collection of Rs 3.24 crore from the 5,060 services to Pamba during the last Mandalam-Makaravilakku season. However, with one day left for the annual pilgrim season, this time the depot is doubtful of repeating the same feat as the KSRTC is facing a severe shortage of drivers and conductors. Many services were cancelled in the region during the last three months which often resulted in heated verbal exchanges between employees and passengers. Many drivers said that they are forced to work without any relaxation.

“Last day a superfast service of the depot from Chengannoor to Thiruvananthapurm and from there to Thrissur and then to Chengannoor was operated by the same conductor and driver. The depot is short of 35 drivers and most of the employees are working up to 16 hours a day instead of eight hours. There is no alternative arrangement as the management did not appoint M panel drivers in the depot,” said a senior driver. Though the KSRTC officials admit the shortage of drivers they expect that it will not affect the Pamba services.

“Normally 65 schedules are operated from Chengannoor with 145 drivers on a daily basis. But there won’t be much problem as the crew will be provided along with buses from other stations. Apart from this KSRTC gives `130 to each driver and conductor as an additional allowance for the Pamba services” ATO G Surendra Kumar told ‘Express’. But the employees disagree with the management stand.

“Normal schedules have already been disrupted. The special services will really affect the functioning of the depot. Special arrangements in the season needs a minimum of 100 buses to Pamba from other depots this year,” said a driver.

Former local MLA, Shobhana George demanded that the KSRTC should provide proper service to the pilgrims. “The government should monitor the needs of pilgrims, including the proper service of the KSRTC. Bus services were disrupted many times in the Chengannoor depot during the monthly pooja at Sabarimla last month.

It will not be repeated during the season,” she said. Akhila Bhartahiya Ayyappa Seva Sangham (ABASS) has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister on the issues being faced by the depot. “Though it earns good revenue during the Sabarimala season, the depot is often ignored by the management after the season. So the government intervention is a must,” ABASS vice-president D Vijaykumar said.

Source: New Indian Express