Kolkatans had breathed a sigh of joyous relief after electric buses were introduced in the city a short while ago. They were joyous at the prospect of their beloved city catching up with other metropolises who boast of state of the art transport system. Their relief was at the possibility of breathing in city air sans petrol and diesel smoke which most of the vehicles emit. Of course, it would take some time. For though trams, an ideal pollution-free transport system already exist, it is unsuitable for a quick journey.
But then a start has been made to build up a fleet of buses which operate sans smoke. Kolkatans gathered patience after the recollection of the construction process of the Metro railway, now an indispensable part of Kolkata. The still nurse memories of the days when they had to bear with the yawning gaps on the carriageway and the apprehension voiced in the bush telegraph that the users of this underground transport, once it becomes operational, will be buried in it. Any inconvenience faced in e-buses is small beer in comparison.
The Kolkatans consoled themselves that even Rome was not built in a day. It is a pleasure to be the e-buses if the firsthand experiences are anything to go by. Though these buses are no slow coaches, their teething troubles threaten to be overwhelming. An insufficient number of charging stations has been a spoke in the wheel of the e-vehicles. It appears that the state transport department honchos did not spare the forethought of lining the routes of the newly introduced e-buses with charging stations.
The lack of charging stations ought not to have been clutch speed breakers on the route of buses whose fuel is electricity. Perish the dark days of the ‘70s when the city then called Calcutta was in a grip of darkness lasting for hours. It was that period of time when the inhabitants of the city, big and small first came face to face with an ogre called load-shedding. Such time is part of a hoary past. Excess power is now produced and is sold to other states. It is not that there are no charging stations. The fact remains that not only they are few and far between, but charging time is also too long.
Compared to the e-vehicles, the ones using conventional fuel are filled up in a jiffy. While recharging an e-bus takes three hours, the same is done in a few minutes if the fuel in question is petrol or diesel. In down to earth “transport economics” it boils down to lesser trips for the e-buses resulting in a depletion of profit margin. As for the commuters, even those who are aware of the menace of environmental pollution and seek a cleaner environment will opt for buses spewing petrol or diesel smoke. After all, one cannot afford to late for an appointment be it at the place of work or a tryst.
A boycott of the public transport vehicles spewing smoke which chokes to ride e-buses would be an exercise in futility. After all, one cannot switch on the mobile phone and say that he/she would be late by at least three hours since the e-vehicle is being recharged. The delay even if it is greener earth won’t cut ice. Time is money. Be it a job to be done, a marketing strategy to be drawn up, or the dotted lines to be signed on a business deal, everything has a time frame.
Finishing a job, drawing up a game plan to launch a product and striking a business deal cannot be put off by hours till an e-bus is refuelled. In such a backdrop, talk of conserving fuel or underscoring the need for e-buses to evolve a cleaner city is hogwash. Meanwhile, efforts are afoot to arrange for more spots to set up recharging stations. A month is supposed to be the time span when things will be tickety-boo. A week is stated to be a long time in politics. A month ought not to be too long a time a quick ride and a journey towards a cleaner environment.