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Delhi-Lahore bus service relaunch is a low-key affair

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | July 11, 2003 17:07 IST
Last Updated: July 11, 2003 20:13 IST

A heavy downpour and the early hour did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Lahore-bound passengers at the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar terminus at Delhi Gate.


But it did seem to affect the critics as protesters could not muster the numbers to mark their opposition to the initiative.


Barring a token anti-Pakistan demonstration and muted slogans against the government's decision to resume the Indo-Pak road link, it was all smooth sailing as the Delhi-Lahore bus left the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar terminus at six on Friday morning.


Union Surface Transport Minister Major General Bhuvanchand Khanduri (retired) 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, braving a heavy downpour, turned up in large numbers to cover the resumption of the service 18 months after it was suspended following the December 13, 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament.


Both countries have expressed hopes of resuming the rail link (Samjhauta Express) too 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 after the departure of the bus.


"The one-way ticket would 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, the first person to be issued a ticket, will proceed to Rawalpindi from Lahore to meet his sister Hanifa.


"She is married to a Kashmiri who 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 would 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.


Some protestors, including president of the Shiv Sena's Delhi unit Jai Bhagwan Goel, said that the government should have sent tanks to Pakistan and crushed terrorism before resuming the bus service.


It was largely a token protest, but Goel wants to hold another demonstration in the evening when the bus from Pakistan would reach Delhi.

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