PUBLIC TRANSPORT…THE WAY FORWARD
By Parag gacche
Today traffic problems are faced by almost all major cities in India. With the rapid ‘economic growth’, numbers of cars on the streets have increased manifolds. In the mean time, the newly found purchasing power of the middle class is being used to move away from dysfunctional public transport system to owning vehicles. If this trend continues, very grim future is in store for all of us.
Given the rapid growth of India’s largest cities and desperate need for better and efficient public transport, policy shift is very much the order of the day. Unfortunately the Indian Government has been emphasizing the need to further develop the automobile industry in India and has actually encouraged more car ownership and use. Roadways are already hopelessly congested, with average speed declining each year. Clearly the public transportation must be given the priority.
Following measures have been implemented in some of the biggest cities (Singapore, London, Paris etc)of world with good response. These relate to congestion charges and high parking fees within city.
However in most cases parking fees in India is in range of Rs. 5 to Rs. 20 which is too low to deter travel by car. A case can be made for hiking parking charges and introducing congestion tax on vehicles within city. However, any disincentives to use private transport have to be accompanied by improvements in public transport.
PRIVATISATION OF WATER: A BIG NO
By Parag gacche
It is the fact that first ever species was born in water. But today if we look around us, not only animals, destitute, poor but also people from middle class are finding it hard to get daily quota of fresh and pure water. Water is called “Jeevan”, meaning life. People’s access to this most precious resource is today at a greater risk. Mineral water, or Bisleri as it is commonly known, has become ubiquitous. Only a certain section of people can afford it. Why is this happening? Simple enough. Privatization of water is occurring at a very fast rate.
On one hand we allow MNCs and big corporations to pump millions of liters of freshwater from our natural resources at throw away prices (which then price them exorbitantly based on their whims and fancies) and on other we leave large chunk of people to be deprived of the most essential part of life. Double standard is also evident from following example: UN regards water as essential thing of life and does not recommend its use as an economic commodity. But institutions such as WB, IMF and ADB have prescribed exactly the opposite thing, i.e. in order to conserve water and to avoid its misuse it should be commoditized and sold. But the basic question remains: How can a private entity own natural resources which inherently belong to public of the country? What if tomorrow they ask ownership on the air that we breathe?
It is quite apparent that institutions like WB are serving the interests of giant corporations and filling their coffers by making loan requirements especially of third world countries contingent on these countries agreeing to privatize their water resources.
Even experiments with countries all over the world point to the fact that, attempt to privatize the water did not go down well with the public. As soon as companies get hold of these resources, the obvious next step is increasing the prices so that they can amass as much dollars as possible. Also the indiscriminate water mining by these companies is also a cause of concern. In future this might create water monopolies which by their sheer force can rob a large number of people of their water needs.
In India, river linking projects are touted as the best solution by which everybody can be benefited. In reality these projects will also be handed to such large corporations, which will put their monetary interests ahead of nation’s interest. This malignant tumor is spreading itself very fast, we, in our own interest, should nip it in the bud.
AC BUSES FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT, HOW MUCH PUBLIC?
By Angad Patwardhan
It seems to be a positive move by the Maharashtra government in asking the PMPML administration to stick to JNNURM guidelines concerning the purchase of buses for Pune public transport, thereby eliminating private players’ involvement (“Bus Purchase Controversy”, pg.no.3, Pune Newsline, June 19, 2009). However, as the move comes after on-going protests from Puneites, doubts do crop up in one’s mind as to the credibility of the State government’s motive, as it could have easily issued the directive before the decision to go ahead with PPP was finalized on May 16.
Also, it seems unlikely that Divisional Commissioner Dilip Band and Secretary to the Chief Minister Nitin Kareer are unaware of the drawbacks of the PPP arrangement, including the purchase of AC buses. Not only do AC buses have higher initial cost, they are also more expensive to run and to maintain. With the same amount of money, lesser number of AC buses can be purchased than their ordinary (non-AC) counterparts. When a one-way ticket costs as much as Rs.25/- for an AC bus, how can the common man afford such travel? This will lead to buses not running to their full capacity and to make good the loss thus incurred, the authorities will increase the fares of non-AC buses as well.
Besides, AC buses are not required by everyday bus travelers. We have an example in Mumbai where even well-to-do people travel by non-AC buses and locals. Thus, PMPML authorities’ initial idea of purchasing AC buses itself is counter-productive.
Another issue is giving private dealers the authority to run the bus service. 70% of the capital for buying buses is government-funded, i.e. citizens’ money. How is it fair to allow private dealers to run the service with their financial input being only 30%? It’s better then to have the entire sum coming from the government fund.
Citizens should not withdraw the protests till their demands for better public transport are met, as the NEW move of the State government is very likely politically motivated, with the Assembly elections just round the corner.