Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bhopal notes 19: Of repair of buses and related matters

I feel jealous of the towns where I find the BRTS buses running without any problems. In recent months I have been to Jaipur and Kolkata. Both the places have implemented the Centre’s proposal for introducing the system and in both the places there didn’t seem to be any corridor and the buses were plying through the crowded streets. In Kolkata I happened to notice that the JNNURM was writ large on the buses that were bought off the funds provided under the Mission.

It is only in Bhopal that the BRTS has faced all kinds of problems. These have been dealt with from time to time in these notes. It is now reported that more than 50% of the fleet of low-floor buses are off roads on account of their utterly bad condition. The Municipal Corporation has prepared a proposal for repair of these buses at a cost of Rs 5 crore which seem to have been transferred by the Centre but not released by the state government to the Corporation for want of a proper proposal.

The condition of buses has degraded within a short period of time. Obviously there has been improper maintenance. No wonder the buses have been taken off the road at great inconvenience to the rising number of commuters. Unfortunately, the Municipal Corporation has never been able to carry out any of its functions properly for the benefit of the people. In almost every sphere of activity it has failed and yet one wonders how the state government thought it fit to entrust to it the work of building the BRTS corridor and running a fleet of costly buses. Special purpose vehicles for each of these items of work should have been created for greater efficiency in both. If the State government had to wind up MP Road Transport Corporation basically because of corruption at all levels how the Municipal Corporation could remain untouched by the same culture. In fact, its employees are more corrupt and half the inefficiency of the outfit is because of its corrupt ways.

The report in the newspaper, in fact, has touched on this aspect. The employees, it seems, create situations in which money has to be spent so that they could put a large portion of it in their pockets. The proposal for repair of the buses by a contractor is also reported to be for the very same purpose. Whether it is the elected representative or permanent officials, all are alike; all look for their respective share in transactions that are carried out at the behest of its officials. The public are being ceaselessly short-changed and, surprisingly, none in the government seems to notice it. Even if they happen to notice it, probably, they gloss over it. There appears to be a complete breakdown of civic services and none seem to be bothered.

If the Corporation cannot render its services properly how can it be expected to run a so called smart city? All its staff, from the mayor downwards, are chasing the mirage of converting the town into a smart city –most of them being unaware what makes a city smart. The main reason for chasing this dream seems to be the grant of hundreds of crores that will come from the Centre and a good deal of it will be disposed of in the way the staff of the Corporation have developed expertise. Benefits for citizens is not on their minds; it is only the filthy lucre that attracts them.

Photo of Kolkata JNNURM bus is from the net
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