Decentralisation: Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people or things away from a central location or authority.
Now, transport, especially public transport is a very crucial matter in the lives of most people. People need to travel from home to work, or home to school/college, or to meet someone, or whatever. Transit thus becomes a core component of daily life, and in most cases in Urban India, it single-handedly manages to become the most time consuming part of the day.
It is important to look at how transit is handled by the government and how Who Controls What makes a big difference.
Transport in India is usually under the purview of all three levels of government: Centre, State, and City. In many cases, the first may not apply, and in most cases, the third does not apply. Among these, it is almost impossible for the State Government to not be part of local transport since all State Transport Undertakings [STUs] are under the respective State governments.
Let us take a few examples here:
Mumbai, is possibly the only city in India right now where all three levels of government handle transit. The Suburban Rail, operated by Western and Central Railway comes under the Government of India. Metro Rail, Monorail, and MSRTC [ST] come under the Government of Maharashtra, while BEST comes under the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai [MCGM. Other transcos, such as TMT, NMMT, VVMT, MBMT, KDMT, all come under their respective Municipal Corporations.
Chennai and Hyderabad, both come under the category of zero local government in public transport. The Chennai Suburban Rail and Hyderabad Multi Modal Transit System [MMTS], both come under Southern and South Central Railway, therefore under the Government of India. Metro Rail, as always comes under the State Government, while MTC/TNSTC/TSRTC also come under the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Pune is an interesting case. Barring a few ST routes connecting Swargate or Pimpri-Chinchwad to nearby towns in the district, all routes are handled by the PMPML, while the Suburban Rail is handled by Central Railway, thus reducing the role of the State Government to almost nothing.
Surat and Coimbatore are polar opposites. In the former, the Surat City Bus and Surat Citilink BRTS are handled by the Surat Municipal Corporation while in the latter, TNSTC – Coimbatore operates buses as a State-level body.
Delhi, again is different. DTC and DIMTS are operated by the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, while the Delhi Metro comes under both Centre and State.
Other cities, such as Bangalore, Mysore, Visakhapatnam, Ahmedabad, et al come under similar arrangements of Centre-State-City.
Now, before going further, I’d suggest a quick pre-read: The Escape Velocity of JnNURM Buses, which talks about legal definitions of Transport Bodies, Special Purpose Vehicles and Para-Statal Organisations.
Now, what is the problem if a Central or State-level body operates a transco?
Barring Delhi, which is a city-state and the National Capital, the major problem when one of the two upper levels operate transport is bureaucracy and red-tapism.
Take the case of Mumbai. Any improvements in the Suburban Rail has to go all the way to Delhi where it has to be approved. The previous Railway Ministers, from Bihar and Bengal, never bothered. Under Suresh Prabhu, things are certainly changing with Railway Divisions being granted more autonomy.
Similarly, is the case of a Coimbatore. While routes, planning, repairs, etc. are carried out by the Coimbatore division, fare revisions and new buses both come under the Transport Ministry, but is mostly under Chief Minister’s office! This means, whether you are in Coimbatore [under TNSTC Coimbatore] or Madurai [under TNSTC Madurai], fares and new buses are dependent on the Chief Minister’s mood.
The question is clear: Why should someone sitting in New Delhi be in charge of a person going from CBD Belapur to Andheri? Or for that matter, why should a person sitting Bangalore be in a decision making capacity for someone who wants to take a bus from Hubli Airport to Hubli Railway Station?
The issue is not so bad in cities where the state government has a dedicated transport body, such as Jaipur City Transport Services Limited [JCTSL], BMTC and MTC, however, all three are Capital cities. In the case of Mysore, where the MCTD operates, it is similar to BTMC’s set up, however, still controlled by Bangalore. However, it is worthwhile to note that KaSRTC gives more autonomy to its divisions than TNSTC.
Indian Railways has set up Special-Purpose Vehicles [SPVs] for certain projects with state governments, key being the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation [MRVC] which is a 51-49 JV between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra. MRVC does not operate any services, but is responsible for development and upgradation of the Mumbai Suburban Railway Network.
It is interesting to note, that the three Union Territories: NCT Delhi, Puducherry and Chandigarh have a similar, yet different model. DTC, PRTC, and the CTU, all come under the Union Territory Administration, but the DTC and PRTC are corporations that come under the elected Territorial Government, while the CTU is an undertaking which comes under the Central Government.
So, what should be the ideal situation:
For cities with multiple Municipal bodies in the vicinity, and depending on their sizes, let the Municipal Bodies handle operations. Mumbai has got it right, with its 7 Transport Undertakings, each handling their vast territories, and also running a few services into their neighbouring territories. For railway, an SPV should be set-up between the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and all the Municipal Corporations covered. If needed, neighbouring Pune’s model can be adopted, where the PMPML was formed by merger of the erstwhile PMT and PCMT to serve a larger metropolitan area.
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