SHILLONG, June 10: The tourist vehicles and local cabbies in the city had a field day no sooner the Punjabi Lane incident broke out. These vehicles, taking advantage of the situation, were demanding anything from the affected public – who due to limited choices gave in to their demand.
With the imposition of curfew, many tourists preferred to cut short their stay in the city and in their way out from here were exploited by these tyrant tourist vehicles. The situation aggravated further when the tourist vehicle association from neighbouring Guwahati called a strike in protest of some of their drivers and vehicles being targeted by miscreants in Ri Bhoi district.
A tourist from Bengaluru, Pujesh Akkur, said that whenever any public disturbances takes place in Southern India, the state government ensures that the public are not harassed or exploited by vested interests. Informing that the government back in his city allots personnel to check any wrongdoings in public during crisis at vulnerable places, he observed, “I have not seen such efforts from the state government here in Meghalaya.” That his observations is spot on can be gauged from the “mute” and “escapist” attitude of the state government officials and bureaucrats – who according to the local public here only acts on complaints as if they don’t have any responsibility of their own.
Those residents of the city, who had to return from Guwahati in the absence of tourist vehicles from Guwahati, were exploited right and left by local cabbies. Many such cabbies from the city were stationed at Jorabat junction in Ri Bhoi which ferried per passengers for Rs. 600, said those who took them for want of alternatives. The Meghalaya registration tourist vehicles were also charging similar amount from each passengers in the absence of Assam registered vehicles – which were unwilling to ply after several of their vehicles were targeted.
The Assam State Transport Corporation Limited, which runs a single bus between Guwahati and Shillong, pumped more than half a dozen buses on the route and did brisk business. However, there were no complaints of overcharging from any passengers as the corporation charged prescribed government rates. These buses were packed to the hilt on all days soon after the incident broke out and many passengers traveled standing throughout the 100km route. Several passengers complained that the bus conductor turned them into city buses by pushing in more and more passenger in every possible spaces inside the bus and charged the same counter rates from them. Its counterpart, Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC), ran several Tata Safari tourist vehicles – which are otherwise not seen much on normal days. The beleaguered MTC could not run buses likes its Assam counterpart since it is learnt that there aren’t any at its depot.
However, with the resumption of tourist vehicles following the strike in Guwahati, the trend has now shifted to charging higher prices with the approaching curfew timings at Shillong in the evening hours. Due to lack of government avenues, passengers travel in these maxi vehicles and there are some who observed that they have witnessed similar situations even in the past but there has been no effort by the state government in easing commuters’ plight