DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bhopal notes - 2




Collapse of BRTS

One of the AC buses that have gone off the roads
We have a BRTS corridor that took seven years in building sacrificing thousands of massive shady and benign trees and now we have hardly any buses plying in the corridor. Did we create the wide spread of barricaded asphalt to keep it unoccupied forcing various other vehicles to jostle around in the remaining limited space that was left for them?

The low-floor and even air-conditioned buses acquired at great public expenses are currently off the roads – sitting on their numerous wheels.  The wheels that should have been rolling are all static putting the commuters in a jam in this beastly heat when the temperature hovers around the 40s and once even topping 450 C. Is it incompetence or lack of political will or sheer greed? One does not know what it is.

 One feels so jealous of Jaipur – a town probably of the same size as ours, which not only completed its BRTS corridor a few years ago having buses running on it, it now has a metro built in record time of four years currently doing its 9 kilometre beat. Obviously, politicians of all shades, the bureaucracy and the Jaipur municipality are all far more competent than the bunch we have here. They want their capital to progress and prosper; here they only talk and talk doing nothing.

Our buses that were supposed to be sophisticated with GPS and electronic route-markers are said to be running at losses. The companies that had contracted to run them are not able to ply them anymore. They have not paid even the royalty that was due to the Bhopal City Link Limited (BCLL); it is perhaps the other way round – BCLL, the special purpose vehicle that runs the BRTS failed to recover the due royalty. It is now being said that the company running the AC buses suffered a loss of a hundred thousand every month on each one of them.

Reports have also appeared of the RTO issuing permits in ever increasing numbers for running of more minibuses, Tata Magic and Piaggio Ape` taking away more and more passengers from the BRTS buses. The complaint seems to be that there is no level playing field for the low-floor buses as more numbers of smaller vehicles are being pumped into the roads offering numerous options to the commuters. Ideally speaking, the minibuses should have been banned on the routes of low-floor buses. Minibuses, at best, could be used for feeder services for low-floor routes. That did not happen and the BRTS system was starved of traffic. It is entirely the fault of the administration and its various agencies. The government appears to be watching the situation as a mute witness. It has created a situation where more money is made all round on a recurring basis – what if the publicly funded system collapses. After all, it was the government’s fault that it allowed corruption in its own once-efficient Road Transport Corporation so much that it collapsed under its weight.

So, the upshot is that crores of rupees provided under the project for creating BRTS and acquiring sophisticated buses have gone down the drain. The people can only helplessly watch the buses rust and decay wherever they are stabled. The administration, apparently for no reason, sacrificed thousands of magnificent trees for the project only to get vast expanses of asphalt radiating the scorching summer heat with no greenery to mitigate its stinging effect. What is more, people of the city suffered years of inconveniences with dug up roads that narrowed down passages creating jams. It is eventually you and I who have lost on all counts. Hundreds of crores of tax-payers’ money were transferred by the Centre, only these were played around with and not gainfully spent. The people of the city were all along shortchanged by the powers-that-be. Above all, the primary aim behind creation of BRTS – that of nudging people towards use of public transport in order to lower the carbon emissions – has been defeated in this town.

It is the government and the municipal corporation all together that seem to have killed the System as all the milking that was to be done out of it has been done and it has no use for those ‘milkmen’ anymore. I wonder whether it is a calculated move as, according to information, the experts feel that a light metro in not justified for want of adequate traffic in this city that already has BRTS. Strategy seems to be to kill the BRTS to justify the light metro. Apparently, new ‘milkmen’ have arrived on the scene to milk the light metro and they are hell-bent on having it commissioned regardless of its utility. 
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