Mumbai’s excellent public transport system being messed by the government

BEST bus

The Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was nearly knocked down on the road by motor cyclists while he was on a morning walk in Patna recently. Fortunately, he sensed the danger, the culprits had dented his security, he quickly jumped on the footpath and he was saved.

That shows how poor urban mobility is in the whole country in fact because of the government’s completely wrong headed policy at the Centre oriented entirely towards the Metro railway though it carried a ridiculously low number of people and with all the expansion the picture will be the same. This is because a far far number of people depend on the bus network, auto rickshaws, for walking for their needs. These modes are being callously neglected.

No amount of expansion of the Metro rail network can ever solve our traffic problems since the issue is so huge. But Mr Narendra Modi sees the Metro rail as the panacea when it has proved to be so ludicrously inefficient, it is a blot on the Centre in fact in some ways

In Mumbai the Metro is proving to be a disaster so far. But thousands of crores are being spent on it while denying a fraction of funds for the bus network which caters to many more commuters.

The demand for doubling the number of BEST buses in Mumbai, for paying fair wages to contract workers, ending privatsation has got a good response and needs support from all even if one is a motorist and does not use a bus. A better bus system will benefit motorists with more space becoming available on the road.

A morcha is to taken out on Monday, August 7 from Hutatma Kotwal Udyan garden, next to Plaza cinema in Dadar to Wadala depot where a memorandum will be delivered. Various trade unions and Aamchi Mumbai Aamchi BEST, a citizens’ platform , have given a call for joining the morcha.

The morcha could not have been more timely, contract workers with poor pay and facilities have been on strike for the past few days and the failure of the administration has caused inconvenience to lakhs of commuters.

An excellent pioneer bus network has been systematically weakened by the authorities in the last few years. This raises very serious issues. The bus system at present is not serving even the sub urban railway stations and other areas how will it feed the Metro train service when the network grows ? At present the commuter response to Metro line between Andheri and Dahisar is extremely poor showing how bankrupt has been the planning for this hideously expensive Metro system which has caused unprecedented harm to the bus system by clogging the roads with is inefficient construction work. The damage to citizens in other ways can never been compensated, it has also robbed the city of open spaces, caused terrible noise pollution.

There is utterly misplaced preoccupation at senior levels in the urban development department in the Centre on the Metro. But world experience shows bus transport is far more important than Metro as seen in London, New York or Delhi.

Future generations will not forgive the government’s neglect of the bus network and of the promotion of the automobile lobby. This is utterly suicidal.

The Prime minister in his speech in Pune last week during launching a new Mero line did not have one word to say about the need to promote the bus network which is extremely important for Pune and all other centres.

He harped continuously on the expansion of the Metro network since his government came to power. But much of this expansion has yielded extremely poor results, of course he did not mention that. The response to the expanded Metro line in Pune again is very poor, far below the projected ridership figures.

It is an indication of the disastrous performance of the Metro in Pune and Mumbai that the government is simply burying its head as it cannot face the grim reality. Else we would immediately have a survey conducted of the number of Metro commuters using the system of the impact on the road traffic.

Road congestion continues and all indications are that it WILL continue because the Metro project and the policy promoting the motor car and road lobby are so deeply flawed.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book pleading for strengthening public transport

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