Chaos rules Asia’s largest bus terminus, despite virus threat

Inadequate facilities and poor hygiene are the hallmarks of the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus in Koyambedu, which is visited by thousands on a daily basis

The lessons learnt from the fruit and vegetable market nearby, identified as a super spreader location for COVID-19 soon after the lockdown was announced, seem to have had little impact on the management of the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus (CMBT) in Koyambedu.

Inadequate facilities and poor hygiene are the hallmarks of the bus terminus, hailed as Asia’s largest such facility, where thousands visit every day.


The sprawling space just before the huge sign board bearing the name Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. MGR Bus Stand is utilised by buses of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation.

Poor illumination at night has commuters literally running around. “People have to run here and there to board a bus. Most of the time the public address system does not work. When buses pull up into the bay, one has to run along with the bus to get a seat,” said Narmada, a social activist and regular commuter from Anna Nagar.

At the entrance of the huge complex, there are hardly any metal detectors or police standing to frisk passengers and only a private security personnel stands guard. Sanitisers and temperature checks are absent.

A shelter for homeless

The bus stand looks more like a shelter for the homeless, passengers who are on transit, destitute elders, migrant workers and runaways.

At any given point of time at night, about 2,000 people sleep in the huge corridor.

Raja, a security guard who lost his job recently due to the pandemic, said: “I came back from my native place in Theni district to rejoin the job but my employer told me that he would respond only tomorrow. I have only ₹400 in my hand and have to stay here as I have nowhere else to go.”

V. Panneerselvam, from Ariyalur, said: “I am a daily wage earner at the market and I cannot afford lodges. This place is much more comfortable since free toilets are available. Only thing we have to fight for is space.” No one is available in the control room of CCTVs at night.

The corridors are unclean and garbage is strewn all over in the bays where State Transport Corporation buses are parked. Of course, private conservancy workers sweep the terminus during the day. Unclean toilets with broken doors remain unusable, while bottles and litter are strewn everywhere.

In the late hours, chaos prevails with no information on the arrival of buses to the bays. R. Thinesh, who was waiting for a bus, said: “Announcements are not made at the departure terminal and passengers have to hang around with their baggage without any idea as to how long they should wait. After the bus arrives, we have to run behind the bus to board and get a seat.”

“There are no proper and adequate civic facilities. Buses are parked haphazardly, often causing traffic snarls inside the terminus. During the festival season, it takes over two hours for buses to leave the terminus. It lacks a public announcement system. People face hardship in locating buses for their destination. Some bus bays are unused,” said Arul, a commuter from Jafferkhanpet.

No quality check

The quality of food and snacks sold at the eateries is bad and not fit for consumption, a commuter charged. There are several complaints on the exorbitant prices being charged for food, snacks and water bottles.

V. Aravindh, a journalist, had a harrowing experience when he went to send off his friend. He said: “Around 10.40 p.m., I bought vegetable biryani for ₹80 from an eatery, but found it stale. When we went to return the food, the shopkeeper refused to return the money. There is no quality check on the food outlets.”

The dysfunctional drinking water facility and broken taps are advantageous to shopkeepers to sell their water bottles at higher prices. “Amma Kudineer costs ₹10 a bottle but the kiosk which sells the bottles is closed at night. We were forced to buy branded water bottles for ₹20 to ₹25 from shops located inside the terminus. Moreover, the quality of water is suspect,” said Archana from Vaniyambadi.

The dormitory meant for the bus crew is not maintained well. “The crew drive long-distance buses the entire night and every day in the morning until 11.30 a.m. They have to wait in a long queue to fill fuel since the CMBT has only two bunks. Later, they sleep in the dormitory for only a few hours before proceeding on the next trip. The dormitory premises are cleaned by outsiders, who are engaged by us,” said an office-bearer of a transport union.

Further, it takes an hour for a bus to get out from the terminus to reach the bypass, thanks to traffic snarls. The omnibuses are parked on the road for want of space on the premises.

A senior official of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), which maintains the bus stand, said efforts were made to keep the premise neat and tidy. Conservancy workers collect 100 kg to 120 kg of garbage from the premises every day and clean the floor and toilets regularly.

Regular raids are conducted on eateries to check the quality of food and prices. “With the help of police officials, we are taking steps to evict people who use the pavement as their shelter,” said the official.

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