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Peace buses deliver loved ones
July 11, 2003 20:50 IST
Last Updated: July 11, 2003 21:21 IST
Signalling the resumption of contact between Indians and Pakistanis, the buses that started from Delhi and Lahore safely reached their destinations on Friday evening.
The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation bus, carrying 28 passengers including six journalists, rolled into the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar terminus at Delhi Gate at around 2000 IST after covering a distance of 527km.
At about the same time, the Delhi Transport Corporation bus, which crossed the Wagah border at around 1800 IST, reached Lahore.
The journeys marked the restoration of road link between India and Pakistan after 18 months. The service, launched on March 16, 1999, was snapped on December 31, 2001, following the attack on the Indian Parliament.
Despite a heavy downpour and the some anti-Pakistan protests, when the Lahore-bound bus started from the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar terminus at 0600 IST, the enthusiasm among the passengers was palpable.
Union Surface Transport Minister Major General (retd) Bhuvanchand Khanduri flagged off the bus, named Sada-e-Sarhad, in the presence of Delhi minister Haroon Yusuf.
The relatively quiet event came as an anti-climax for journalists who had turned up in large numbers.
Both countries have expressed hopes of resuming the rail link (Samjhauta Express) in the near future.
Delhi Transport Corporation Chairman Amarjeet Singh Sahaney was pleased that the bus left Delhi without any problem.
"One June 3, we had our first meeting with officials of the Ministry of External Affairs wherein we were told about the resumption of the bus service. We worked round the clock to get two buses ready. We have taken exactly one month and eight days to put the two buses in top condition," Singh said.
"The one-way ticket will cost Rs 800 per passenger. It includes breakfast, lunch and tea," he explained.
Passengers will be able to avail of the service four times a week -- on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Rajinder Singh, one of the two bus drivers, has been working with the DTC since 1975. A resident of Uttam Nagar in west Delhi, Singh was pleased that he had been selected to take the bus out of Delhi.
"I was driving this bus between Delhi and Chandigarh. I was happy when, after the decision to put it back on the Delhi-Lahore route, I was told to continue driving it," he told rediff.com
Srinagar-based Mohammad Abdullah was the first person to be issued a ticket. He will proceed to Rawalpindi from Lahore to meet his sister Hanifa.
"She is married to a Kashmiri who is settled in Pakistan. I have been looking forward to this meeting," Abdullah told rediff.com as he took his seat.
Zahoor Zeba had travelled from Jaipur along with her brother and two kids to board the bus.
"I am going to join my journalist husband. I had come back to India for the delivery of my second child, who has been suffering from tuberculosis and had to be hospitalised for some time.
"My husband would ring up every day to enquire about his condition. By the grace of Allah, he will be able to see his child now," she told rediff.com
One passenger who seemed to enjoy the media attention was Sayeed Begum of Muzaffarnagar.
"I am going along with my husband and two children to meet my relatives. We will be attending some family functions. I am delighted to be on this bus," she said with a broad smile.
More reports from Delhi
Read about: Assembly Election 2003 | Attack on Parliament