KOCHI: Come evening and the East Fort Gate junction in Tripunithura, opposite the St Mary’s Forane Church, is a hive of frenzied activity. Around 300 people can be seen at the bus stand at the junction, standing in the scorching sun, sans a roof above their heads. It worsens during the monsoon with the addition of umbrellas hoisted in the air. The bus stand is the junction point of major roads - the Ernakulam-Vaikom-Ettumanoor road, the Ernakulam-Muvattupuzha road which connects the city to suburbs such as Chottanikkara and Piravom and eventually to a state highway. It is host tomany private, KSRTC and LS buses.
The lack of a bus shelter, a fundamental requirement, forces pedestrians to stand on the road, obstructing the passage of buses, creating a traffic bottleneck. Sounds like chaos? The junction is absolute mayhem.
Ironically, barely two metres away is a city traffic police bus stop, which can accommodate a maximum of 15 people. Yet, nobody uses it.
“Though a few buses stop at the junction, if we stand at the bus stop which is nearby, we would end up getting into an overcrowded bus that has already been filled by those who were waiting at the junction. Fortunately, there is a tree here so a few can seek shade. Nevertheless, there is utter confusion during peak hours. The authorities concerned, the municipality and public works department (PWD) must address the situation as it worsens by the year,” said Dileep K, a regular commuter. However, Suresh Kumar, owner of a nearby shop, said that despite buses halting at the bus stop, people gather at the junction which forces them to stop at the very place itself.
“You can’t blame the authorities here. They have built a small enclosure but the public refuses to stand there. I have lost several customers as these pedestrians gather at the junction in multitudes and obstruct the area, not allowing cars to enter the compound,” he said.
V P Prasad, president, Tripunithura Rajanagari Union of Residents’ Association (TRURA), said that despite repeated attempts to resolve the issue, the authorities have been negligent. The city traffic bus stop is situated between a medical store and a branch of the South Indian Bank. Leela Kalarickal, at the store, said the presence of anti-social elements at night in the shelter could be a reason why people refuse to use the same. “The stop had seating facilities but they have all been destroyed over time. Another reason could be the size of the shelter which discourages a larger crowd,” she said. When asked, Chandrika Devi, chairperson of the Tripunithura municipality, said there were attempts by the municipality to develop the stretch but restrictions kept them at bay.
“Firstly, the road isn’t broad enough for a large shelter, so the only option is to erect it on drainage slabs. The other side of the road is at to private property. Secondly, we tried to secure a permit from PWD who owns the road to Vaikom, which we failed to receive,” she said.