Pune Metro railway has become a laughing stock. Few people are travelling and there are any number of jokes on the social media that it should be let out for wedding parties and other celebrations. Mercifully, it has spared the historic district, it has not gone there. Jaipur Metro has done that . It is also a big failure as I saw last week. Luckily, the Metro rail is underground in the historic area of Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar , Badi Chaupar. But in the first place it had no business to be there and have caused so much disruption in the construction which I saw some years ago.
The historic district is the most walkable and colourful somewhat like Istanbul. One should walk from the Sindhi camp public road transport depot to Chandpol and Badi Chaupal or take an auto rickshaw or a battery operated e rickshaw. The rickshaw drivers are extremely well behaved, good spirited. Poor guys, there are too many of them and too few customers but are mobile most of the time cruising, not shouting for customers at railway and bus stands as in other cities.
There is also very good rickshaw sharing system in which one can comfortably travel over a good distance for Rs 20 and the main point is the slow ride in the tourist area is so spectacular and a sensory delight. The shops on either side have good walkin space, all shaded under an arcade, reminding one of the Parisian arcades which so fascinated some celebrated poets.
Jaipur is reputed to be one of the earliest planned cities in the country but now the planning inflicted from Delhi is causing the city much harm.
Authorities in the urban development ministry in Delhi have always indulged in bombast while inflicting the enormously expensive Metro projects even in small towns where they are least needed. They talk about Metro not merely as vehicles for transport but also a symbol of modernity. How unrealistic this is, to put it mildly. The actual picture is harsh. If one reaches Jaipur by a private bus, there is an open air terminus without any bus station or even a toilet. I heard a commuter inquire about a toilet and a local resident saying, it is closed, you better do it in the open. And that is what hundreds of people do and the result is there is slush , stench and cess pool.
The public sector bus terminus at Sindhi camp some distance away seems to have basic facilities. The ST buses are identified as roadway buses. As elsewhere these are lower in prices and more efficient than private buses. While a private luxury Volvo type private bus charges Rs 700 for a journey between Jaipur and Bikaner, the Rajasthan state transport bus with similar facilities costs Rs 650, and for women the fare is even lower, at Rs. 450.
The most common visible boards I saw during a short visit to Jaipur were of a Brahman Sabha and of the state government offering a meal for Rs eight with the photograph of a smiling chief minister.The weather is still pleasant unlike in Maharashtra and some other states for this time of the year..
Bikaner is more relaxed than Jaipur with even more open spaces. But the beauty of course lies in the old walled city with is narrow winding streets. Bad planning of the new areas has meant ultra wide roads, betrayal of the traditional wise old urban planning norm of narrow roads which provide much more shade and reduce heat. One can understand the new roads need to be wider than those but not so wide to be environmentally so unfriendly. But now all planning is for cars, not for common people.
Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on public transport and walking