Sharmili Mallick

Protesting the ‘despicable' condition of National Highway No-55 Bhubaneswar-Sambalpur route, the private bus owners' association has suspended bus services on the route for 18 hours from 6 am to 12 midnight on Thursday.

The bus owners claimed that due to the bad road condition in the route between Cuttack and Sambalpur, their vehicles often get damaged and it forces them to shell out a huge sum towards maintenance on regular basis.

The association further threatened to boycott NH-55 from January 1, if their demands are not fulfilled at the earliest.

Ajay Barik, secretary of the Private Bus Owners' Association in Cuttack said, “We had earlier submitted multiple written complaints to the State government but our requests have remained unheard. We also tried to speak to the contractors of the road but they ignored the matter. A meeting was convened 15 days back in which we requested the concerned authorities to take steps to repair the NH. As no action was taken in this regard, we were forced to call the bandh today,” he added.

“As the road is in a deplorable condition, the maintenance cost of the vehicles has increased. The body and tyres of buses suffer severe damage due to the bumpy and potholed road. The bandh is being observed at Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Angul, Talcher and Dhenkanal,” said a protesting member of the association.

“People are afraid of travelling on the route due to the poor condition of road and dust. Besides, drivers find it difficult to drive because of the large potholes that damage the buses. If the government fails to take notice of this strike, we will intensify our protest,” said a driver.

Meanwhile, commuters had a harrowing time due to the 18-hour strike.

“I often travel to Angul for work. I was not aware of the protest today. The road is filled with big potholes and visibility on the route is also affected due to the dust,” said a passenger at Badambadi Bus Stand in Cuttack.