Protest against Procurement of AC buses outside Council Hall

Lokayat, Pune Shahar Molkarin Sangathana and Shramik Mahila Morcha organised a protest outside the Council Hall in Pune against the decision of the PMPML CMD Dilip Band to purchase 200 AC buses for PMPML. The organisations, united under the banner PMPML Vachwa Kriti Samiti (Save PMPML Action Committee) organised this protest on 23 March, from 9 am to 11 am. The PMPML CMD has gone ahead with this decision ignoring an earlier resolution of the Board of Directors of PMPML which had decided to scrap the purchase of AC buses. Dilip Band has been arguing that the new buses being purchased are cheaper than the earlier variety of AC buses (30 lakhs as against 64 lakhs), and that these are necessary in order that conditions be created to shift car users to PMPML. The protesting organisations, in a memorandum to the CMD, argued that even then, these buses would be costlier by Rs. 7 lakhs each, which is one-third the price of an ordinary bus. And further, that the maintenance cost of AC buses and running costs are much higher than ordinary buses. Therefore, the bus ticket of these buses would be much higher than ordinary buses. This obviously means that these buses will run at a loss, and the loss would lead to an increase in the ticket of ordinary buses.

In the present circumstances, when PMPML does not have the required minimum number of buses needed  to cater to the needs of common people for a decent public transport service, purchasing AC buses is a waste of public funds. PMPML has just 1500 buses as against the recommended minimum of 3000 buses. Therefore, the PMPML should first focus on purchasing ordinary buses and try and serve the needs of common people, and then think of purchasing AC buses.

Further, the organisations have argued that under the present circumstances, if indeed the PMC and PMPML are serious about reducing the growing traffic congestion in the city, they should implement policies to reduce the growth of private vehicles in the city. Unless a holistic approach is taken, the car owners will never shift to  public transport system. But on the one hand, the PMC is adopting a policy of spending most of its transport budget on facilitating a further increase of private vehicles – by widening roads and building flyovers, a policy which also suits the builder lobby which today dominates the PMC. And on the other hand, it is talking of purchasing AC buses to prod private vehicle owners of shifting to public transport. Clearly, this is not going to happen. The organisations alleged that vested interests are involved in the decision to purchase private buses, and the arguments given by the CMD are an eyewash, given the overall approach of the PMC and PMPML to solve the transport woes of the city.

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