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It's curtains up for the bus to Lahore

By A Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: ``Aa gayi, aa gayi (It's here, it's here),'' was said in unison as the swank, golden brown bus glided down the premises of the Old Secretariat - the seat of the Delhi government - on Thursday.

After all, mediapersons had to wait for an hour before having a dekko at the Delhi Transport Corporation bus which will be carrying Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee from Amritsar to the Wagah border on February 20.

Shortly after the bus arrived, chief minister Sheila Dikshit emerged from her office to cut the ribbon, marking a formal launch of the bus service. As eager camerapersons crowded the sole entry of the bus, Ms Dikshit boarded it to take a look at the interiors.

Conspicuous by his absence was transport minister Parvez Hashmi, who had made statements about the inaugural service not having commoners on board.

Contrary to earlier statements made by the Prime Minister's Office about there being two buses at the same time - one for the PM, the other for commoners - only one bus will do the inaugural run. No date has been fixed for the regular bus service.

The luxury bus, one of two buses which will be used for the regular service, had on board a senior DTC official and some security personnel.

A beaming Hassan Zaidi, at the steering wheel, said he was looking forward to having the PM on board. ``Prime Minister ke saath aur hi mazaa hai (It's all the more fun with the PM on board).'' His colleague Ajit Singh, who will drive half the stretch, recalled the respect with which they had been treated in Pakistan when a dry run was conducted in January.

With Sada-e-sarhad (call of the border) written in front, the bus has both the Indian and Pakistani flags painted in front and on either side. The bus chassis has been manufactured by Ashok Leyland in Bangalore.

With plush upholstery and curtains, the airconditioned 37-seater bus will also offer a two-channel music system complete with ear-phones. Passengers not wishing to plug in to music won't be disturbed.

The ear-phones will also come in handy for the passengers to watch movies on the video screen during the 11-hour journey.

However, the bus lacks toilet facility. A senior official said that to provide the facility, ``We would need a longer chassis or would have to reduce the number of seats to 20.'' So, passengers will have to make do with the three halts - at Pipli, Sirhind and Kartarpur.

The ticket for the journey will cost Rs 800, said DTC official Manzoor Ahmed. As soon as the regular service begins, the tickets will be sold at the Kashmere Gate ISBT, Ambedkar Stadium and the DTC office at Scindia House.

Passengers on this bus will be allowed to carry a maximum of 20 kilograms of baggage and it will take between 30 to 45 minutes for customs clearance of all the passengers at the Wagah border.


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1999 Green World Publishers Inc.
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