Nagpurites highlight inadequate budget allocation, inefficient planning and perception as root causes for broken down bus service at “Lakh ko 50” city dialogue
The dialogue was organized by Pune-based NGO Parisar as part of the Lakhala 50 (Lakh ko Pachaas) campaign, which is part of a nationwide campaign to demand that both the National and State Governments launch a comprehensive program to ensure that cities are assured a good bus-based public transport system. The campaign highlights the need for at least 50 buses per lakh residents, a benchmark set by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
The State campaign aims to petition the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, calling upon his Government to announce a policy that will make public transport a mandatory service by the 27 Municipal Corporations in the State. Maharashtra is one of the most urbanized states in India, with over 5 crores of its population living in urban areas. Public transport is poor and even non-existent in most of the cities, which have seen an explosive growth in vehicles and with it, chronic congestion and pollution.
Parisar, along with SUM Net members and partners, is organising a dialogue in 6 cities in Maharashtra, aimed at getting stakeholders discussing the need for affordable bus service in the city and the impact the absence of such a service has on the community.
The third of these dialogues was held (virtually) in Nagpur on Saturday and was live streamed on Parisar’s Facebook page. The bus operators in Nagpur have a collective fleet of 430 buses of which only 370 are on-road catering a population of 28 lakh. “This translates to about 13 buses per lakh residents, woefully short of the 50 buses per lakh population benchmark and abysmally low for an industrialized city like Nagpur ”, presented Vikas Tatad from Parisar, moderating the webinar.
This city dialogue saw the participation of a rich mix of stakeholders – experts, activists, authorities, commuters and operators. Sh. Adit Chhajed of Hansa Group significantly asserted that “do gaz ki zaroori doori (the importance of maintaining distance of two-yards)” is possible only on buses, not on autos, cars or two-wheelers. Shri Ravindra Page from Nagpur Municipal Corporation specifically mentioned the importance of Viability Gap Funding to lessen the financial burden keeping the Corporation from having more buses.
Nitin from YUVA expressed that not starting bus services with physical distancing measures deprived many commuters like him from accessing essential medical services, education or jobs, and forced them to opt expensive options like autos or two-wheelers. He urged that buses should be considered an essential service, and commuters as workers helping the economy grow, not just consumers. Shameena and Pratibha from Muslim Mahila Manch shared their hardships of waiting for hours for a bus owing to the poor connectivity of regions like Taj Bagh to Bardi Market, sitting on their haunches owing to no bus stop, and travelling in crowded buses.
“As the speakers in Nagpur dialogue pointed out, post-COVID, cities will have to increase their fleet strength, and this will need financial support by the Government of Maharashtra. We are calling upon the Chief Minister to strengthen public transport in all cities as part of Mission Begin Again to help revive the economy and create sustainable and safe cities”, said campaign manager, Swati Pathak of Parisar.
The campaign has been launched by the Sustainable Urban Mobility Network (SUM Net), a coalition of individuals, voluntary organizations, and civil society networks and movements promoting sustainable urban transport solutions across India.