Corrupt Babus from the Stone Age are Impeding Better Transport

Many ‘futurists’ and a significant number of urban local government officials and policymakers I’ve met and/or interacted with hold the following view – ‘Internet, faster communication and changing social attitudes will soon make large urban agglomerations i.e cities in the form of cities irrelevant. We will be participants in an era of small, compact cities with innovators, job creators and seekers moving to such cities from megacities to make their fortunes’.

This view is often represented as a fact in many conferences, seminars and ‘talks’ by organized by the intelligentsia which in turn has transformed the view into conventional wisdom. They are wrong. The internet or any other faster means of communication (except  teleporting perhaps’ will never be able to match  This view combined with the very Indian tendency to ‘equalize’ development of different regions has led to some perverse policy prescriptions but that is a matter for another day. In this post, I will discuss a little on why the ‘compact future city’ view is incorrect and touch upon what we need to improve transportation outcomes..

In his book- The Rise and Fall of Nations, Ruchir Sharma writes:

‘In recent years it became fashionable to argue that location no longer matters, because the internet makes it possible to provide services from anywhere. But physical goods still make up the bulk of global trade flows, and location still matters for companies that want to be close to their customers and suppliers.’

Some of you may argue that physical goods will not constitute a majority of trade flows in the near future where trade will mostly constitute IT based service sector transactions; and that’s when we will see intelligent people leaving cities along with their businesses for small towns. You would then be wrong. Again. Later in the book, Ruchir Sharma writes this:

‘Today the internet is making geography irrelevant neither for manufacturing industries nor for service industries. People still meet face to face in order to manage and build service companies that provide everything from internet search engines to cargo logistics, and new companies in these industries typically set up in the same town to tap the same expert talent pool. The result is the rise of cities with a cluster of companies and talent in a specific service niche.’
‘In South Korea, Busan continues to thrive as the nation’s leading port and as a regional hub for logistics service companies. In the Philippines, Manila has been rising for some time as as a major global provider of back office services, and now that business is spilling over to its satellite cities, including Quezon and Caloocan. Dubai continues to build on its dual role as a major port moving oil and other goods and as a service hub for the Middle East.’

To the above list, I would add- Bangalore continues to thrive as India’s leading education hub and as a hub for R&D, IT-BPO companies; Mumbai continues to thrive as the city whose professionals arrange financing for mega projects across India and Kolkata for producing intellectuals who fill our history textbooks with crap.

In short, cities will NOT become small. Businesses and intelligent people will NOT move to compact cities. Most of India’s megacities will keep getting bigger. (I’m not saying that there is no future for second cities and therefore we should ignore them. They are a very integral part of the modern economy and need to be accorded that status. That discussion is for another post). Our planners and urban administrators need to imbibe this very basic fact when they are managing our cities. In my opinion, amongst these planners and urban administrators, the ones that need to learn this lesson the most are – public transport officials.

A few months ago, St Srikanth of Depot (Srikanth) and I had a chance to interact with officials of BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited) and BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation). Almost every second conversation we had with a management level employee revealed their deep discomfort about private operated public transport facilities. Before these conversations, I admit to having hoped that public transport officials would recognize that government ownership of public transport infrastructure and the legal monopoly over these operations would increasingly lead to very bad transportation outcomes. Those hopes were dashed after the above mentioned conversation. I realized that these buggers are going to sit on their arses, wait for their retirement and meanwhile prevent and/or harass tech enabled transportation systems like Uber, Ola and ZipGo and oppose private entry into the business in the traditional forms.

Before continuing that rant, I will emphasise the need for an efficient public transportation system in every city. As mentioned before, every city is essentially a concentrated labor market. Businesses – low tech, high tech, service sector, manufacturing like to set themselves up in cities as these cities offer them access to a large pool of labor in short distance. This in combination with the fact that most of their suppliers and customers too do the same lead to something known as agglomeration benefits. All the above depends upon the efficiency of the transportation system and the density of urban living. The higher the efficiency of transportation networks and the density of urban living, the greater the agglomeration benefits and therefore higher incomes.

Let me illustrate this with an example from our National Capital Region. Say Srikanth decides to shift from Bengaluru [He is desperate to] to the wretched hellhole that is NCR and rents a place in Dharuhera (About 45kms from Gurugram). He is forced to rent here because he has a taste for luxury and but his bank account isn’t all that good enough to enable him to live in Gurugram. It takes about an hour to travel between Gurugram and Dharuhera as he travels through public transport, Uber and Ola aren’t available in Dharuhera and the nearest metro is HUDA city center which is about 40kms away.  What are the chances of him accepting a job paying ₹60k per month near Rajiv Chowk i.e. Connaught Place, New Delhi over a job paying ₹55k in Gurugram ? (It takes about 2.5 hrs to travel from Dharuhera to Connaught Place). Very low. He most probably will take the ₹55k job as it saves him 3 hours of travelling everyday. The company in Connaught Place will probably have to do with lower quality labor or increase the offer and thus incur higher labor cost.

Haryana Roadways is one of the worst state road transportation companies (SRTCs) with only about 100 buses in operation in Gurugram on about 15 routes. If one attempts to go via public transport from Dharuhera to Gurugram, he or she is forced to take the very rickety illegal buses as the Haryana Roadways buses on the route are very infrequent. The private ones that operate are harassed and sometimes seized if they use the Haryana Roadways logo to escape harassment. If private bus operators existed and the construction on the highway is completed, the route will take about half an hour. Srikanth might take up a job a little further away from Gurgaon say at Hauz Khas @ ₹58k.

Now, back to my rant on BMTC and BMRCL. The old geezers in BMTC and their parent PSU- KSRTC will NEVER give up their legal monopoly. The ones in BMRCL will take another 10 years to realize that Majestic and MG Road no longer are the locus of business activity in Bengaluru city and that the locus has shifted to suburbs like Whitefield and Sarjapur. If Karnataka and other states stop harassing tech based taxi and bus aggregators like Ola, Uber, ZipGo and ends the legal monopoly of SRTCs and their subsidiaries, the transportation outcomes in our cities will vastly improve and believe me and the years of Urban Economics research- the resultant increase in agglomeration benefits will make everyone richer off.

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This article was later republished on Swarajya.

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The Escape Velocity of JnNURM buses

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM] is probably one of the most well known Government schemes that happened from 2005 to 2014. Anyone living in a big city would know what JnNURM is purely because of the ugly JnNURM logo being plastered everywhere, from buses to flyovers and ultimately to ultrasonic flow-meters used to measure water flow in underground supply systems.

Logo of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM].
Logo of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission [JnNURM]. Image in Public Domain.

Now flyovers, bridges, skywalks, underpasses, et al, are out of the purview of this article. The discussion is about buses. In 2013, it was announced that the Central government was willing to fund the allotment of an additional 10,000 buses and development of ancillary infrastructure such as Depots, Workshops and Control Rooms.

In a letter addressed to the Chief Secretaries, Principal Secretaries of all States and UTs, Municipal Commissioners and Heads of State Transport Undertakings, the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, laid down some important guidelines.

Among the various points mentioned in the above document; Point 3 talks about Definitions. It defines State as a State or Union Territory, a city as a City, Agglomeration, or Metropolitan area defined by the State, and Special Purpose Vehicle [SPV] as meant to run bus services within a city. It also states that existing corporations such as BEST, DTC, BMTC et al, also come under the definition of an SPV. A crucial thing to note here is Point 3.4 which talks about Para-Statals like KSRTC and APSRTC, which can operate buses under JnNURM, but would require an SPV at city level, OR could set up an SPV for a cluster of cities under Point 3.5.

Now, not all transcos followed the JnNURM guidelines. State level transcos as well as their city level counterparts did what was ideally not permitted.

Now let us list out all the violations that were possible; and then examine them case-by-case. This article only deals with the operating body, and jurisdictions. Another article will come soon on violations of bus specifications.

  • Not setting up an SPV to handle JnNURM buses.
  • Using JnNURM buses outside the city or area where they were to be used.
  • Using JnNURM buses for purposes other than Public-Transport.

Now that the violations have been listed, let us examine, on a case by case basis, what each transco did.

Metropolitan Transport Corporation/Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation

An MTC Volvo on Route 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram.
An MTC Volvo on Route 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram. Image copyright Vinoth Thambidurai, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

One of the earliest pioneers in the JnNURM violations, the MTC recieved a set of Volvo B7RLEs which it operated inside city limits, on routes such as CMBT-Red Hills or CMBT-Chengalpattu. It also ran on routes such as 588B from Broadway to Mamallapuram, which is acceptable as it is a city route. The issue cropped up when MTC transferred some of its Volvo buses to TNSTC Villupuram, and began using them on various intercity routes such as Chennai-Puducherry, Chennai-Hosur, and Chennai-Trichy. Perhaps its MTC which is innocent and TNSTC which is the culprit.

TNSTC Coimbatore and TNSTC Madurai received non-AC Semi-Low-floor [SLF] buses for intra-city use. These buses were not used on routes outside of their respective cities but there was no SPV created for them. Of course, one may argue that TNSTC Coimbatore’s JnNURM buses were used exclusively in Coimbatore and not in Erode or Ooty and thus TNSTC CBE is not the para-statal here but merely a city-specific transport corporation.

Puducherry Road Transport Corporation

On the lines of the TNSTC-MTC mischief-making duo, the PRTC got itself a set of SLFs under JnNURM. PRTC hardly used any of them in its capital city. Instead, it chose to ply them between Pondicherry and Karaikal. One may argue that there is nothing wrong in this as they are two parts of Pondi only. They then ran them on East Coast Road [ECR] along with the TNSTC VPM Volvos. This, made them serial offenders, just like the others.

Kerala State Road Transport Corporation

A Volvo B7RLE bus owned by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation at Angamally Bus Station, heading for Aroor.
A Volvo B7RLE bus owned by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation at Angamally Bus Station, heading for Aroor. Image copyright RanjithSiji, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another arty and masterful violator, KeSRTC received Volvo B7RLEs for use in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. What did they do with these? Run them on intercity routes, of course. No SPV was created. The Central Government stepped in and objected to this violation, going so far as taking KeSRTC to court.

However, being crafty, the KeSRTC found a work-around for this. The court order affected only buses belonging to the Kochi division, prompting KeSRTC to transfer most of these buses to the Thrivananthapuram division. The reason? These buses were super-profitable and KeSRTC otherwise had only one Volvo service between Trivandrum and Bangalore, which was running at a loss due to KaSRTCs super-efficiency.

In November 2014, KeSRTC finally created an SPV called the Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation [KURTC] exclusively for JnNURM buses, thus making it an SPV for a cluster of cities.

Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation

A low-floor Tata Marcopolo Bus belonging to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation -Mysore City Transport Department.
A low-floor Tata Marcopolo Bus belonging to the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation -Mysore City Transport Department. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Among the most ethical State Transport Undertakings in India, KaSRTC has actually followed most of the rules in the book. However, it did  miss out on a few:

KaSRTC has lived up by trying to follow norms as much as possible. One just hopes that Mysore and Mangalore get their own transport corporations soon.

Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation/Telangana State Road Transport Corporation

A Volvo B7RLE operating under the brand name of Metro Luxury by the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation in Visakhapatnam.
A Volvo B7RLE operating under the brand name of Metro Luxury by the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation in Visakhapatnam. Image copyright LOVEofZ, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The APSRTC, during the United Andhra days operated JnNURM buses in Hyderabad, and Visakhapatnam. It continues to operate the latter, while its younger sibling the TSRTC has taken over the erstwhile capital. There is no SPV to handle city operations. One hopes that the upcoming capital of Amaravati will have its own Transco, with funding under AMRUT.

Along with this, several of the Volvo “Metro Luxury” buses have found their way to intercity routes, both in AP and Telangana.

Note: Thanks to GSR Chaitanya for pointing out that APSRTC/TSRTC did indeed have an SPV. An article on this was posted a year earlier on Love of Z, a blog dedicated to APSRTC/TSRTC buses. You can read the article here.

Buses in Hyderabad, on paper operate under the aegis of the Hyderabad Zonal Urban Road Transport Corporation.

Haryana Roadways

A Haryana Roadways JnNURM Ashok Leyland Bus.
A Haryana Roadways JnNURM Ashok Leyland Bus. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0, International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another serial offender, Haryana Roadways has both non-AC buses like the above, as well as Volvo B7RLEs, both of which, were allotted to the Faridabad division. Once again, there is no SPV here, and these buses always operate on the Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ballabgarh route. Buses that operate within Gurgaon, however, are non JnNURM buses.

Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation

A Bharat Stage IV Volvo operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation.
A Bharat Stage IV Volvo operated by the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation. Image copyright Hayathkhan.h, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The BMTC, one of the largest beneficiaries under JnNURM, is a mere crook among the no-goodniks of the Transport world. It’s only violation of the JnNURM guidelines? Renting out buses. A large chunk of BMTCs revenue comes from leasing out its Volvo fleet to the IT sector for dedicated pickup and drop trips. The BMTC quickly rectified this however by purchasing brand new Volvo buses and deputing the JnNURM ones for Public Transport. A good move to conform to norms, but the downside? The IT sector gets the really good buses, the rest of us, nothing.

Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport

A JnNURM double-door second generation Cerita owned by BEST, leased out to Air India for picking up passengers from the aircraft and to the terminal.
A JnNURM double-door second generation Cerita owned by BEST, leased out to Air India for ferrying passengers between the aircraft and the terminal. Image copyright Prateek Karandikar, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Another small-time crook in the world of the Mafioso, BESTs only mistake in violating JnNURM guidelines was leasing out its Second-Generation Cerita [yep, them Purple Faeries] to Air India to ferry passengers between the aircraft and the terminal. The cash-strapped body, with annual losses of ~₹700crore needed to monetise its fleet, and did so by leasing them out. However, word has it that the after the Air India agreement ended, BEST has been leasing out its older, First-Generation, Single-Door Cerita buses which were not acquired under JnNURM. In order to further monetise them, BEST put out full body adverts on them, thus turning them into giant, moving billboards.

Now that we’re done with the villainous lot, let’s head to the heroes of the hour!

Jaipur City Transport Services Limited

This SPV was set up by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation in 2008 to handle city buses in Jaipur. It operates JnNURM buses, other buses as well as the Jaipur BRTS.

Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd

A bus operated by Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd in Indore.
A bus operated by Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd in Indore. Image copyright Prateek Karandikar, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Set up to run bus services in Madhya Pradesh’s largest city, Indore, the AiCTSL, operates city buses, as well as the BRTS. It also operates a Radio Cab service in the city.

For a further reading on JnNURM funding of buses, please read this.

JnNURM has been scrapped in favour of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation [AMRUT]. While nothing concrete has been set for buses, one hopes that AMRUT paves the way for more intelligent transit in the country.

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Getting around Gurgaon

Gurgaon, sometimes known as the Millennium City, is Haryana’s second largest city. It is also the most isolated part of the cities that form the first rung of the NCR. Unlike NOIDA, Ghaziabad and Faridabad, Gurgaon is at a little distance from Delhi, thus being buffered from its overflowing traffic and pollution.

While the original town of Gurgaon has existed for decades, the city in its current form is a recent development, thus making it the youngest city in the NCR.

Gurgaon has several modes of transport, like most major cities in India.

Autos

Autos are the most common form of public transport in Gurgaon. They are green in colour, can be hailed from anywhere on the streets, but they don’t have a Fare Meter. It is up to the commuter and autowala to bargain and agree to a price. However, Gurgaon autowalas are reasonable compared to their Delhi counterparts and a compromise can be reached easily. There are several Auto-booking apps as well, such as Jugnoo and G-Auto, the latter of which is backed by the Gurgaon Municipal Corporation.

Taxis

Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre.
Bike Taxi Stand at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Hailing Taxis on the streets isn’t a daily affair in Gurgaon. If you need a cab, the best thing to do is to use Uber or Ola. However, Bike Taxis are very common. Players such as Baxi and M-Taxi have proper taxi stands at prominent places, such as outside HUDA City Centre, while other such as HeyTaxi require to be booked using the Mobile App.

Shuttle Services

A Tempo on duty with Shuttl.
A Tempo on duty with Shuttl. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Shuttle services, like I had discussed, in an earlier post, such as Ola Shuttle, ZipGo, Shuttl, are available on select routes within Gurgaon and between Gurgaon and other parts of the NCR. These bus aggregators feature Mobile-app based bookings, free WiFi, cashless payments. Mostly operated using Tempo Travellers, they are popular with Office Goers in areas closer to Sohna Road and other such areas where the Metro hasn’t gone yet.

Metro

The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station.
The Rapid Metro pulling in at Sikanderpur station. Image copyright Ajaydeshwal1994, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The most important form of transport in Gurgaon, the city is served by two Metro lines: The Yellow line of the Delhi Metro that has five stations in Gurgaon, and the Rapid MetroRail Gurgaon, which is India’s first truly private metro rail to be operational.

Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line connects Gurgaon to some of New Delhi’s most crucial areas such as Connaught Place, New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, Kashmere Gate, Parliament House, Vidhan Sabha, Delhi University, Saket, Qutub Minar, etc.

Rapid Metro connects DLF CyberHub to Sikanderpur and will further connect to Sector 56.

Buses

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

Gurgaon has City Bus services operated by Haryana Roadways.Buses connect various parts of the city with the Gurgaon Bus Stand, Railway Station or HUDA City Centre. Non-AC buses are blue in colour while AC buses are Red or Maroon. Buses are operated by HR’s Gurgaon Division and also the Faridabad Division which operates its city buses into Gurgaon.

Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre.
Bus No 321 at HUDA City Centre. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to this, the DTC operates its buses from various parts of Delhi, such as Karol Bagh, Anand Vihar, Badarpur, Uttam Nagar and Dwarka to the Gurgaon Bus Stand. Haryana Roadways also operates a Volvo service connecting Chandigarh to Gurgaon via Delhi Airport.

So there are the various ways of getting around Gurgaon.

Addendum.

If you’re in Sector 14, you  should try Mogli’s Coffee. They have some interesting variations, including Brownie Cappuccino among others. They are located at the far end of Sector 14 Market, in front of South Store on the same lane as the PNB ATM.

The best coffee Gurgaon can offer!

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Odd or Even? Why the Delhi plan is the dumbest thing ever!

So recently, the Delhi Government, announced that they were going to implement a new rule from January 1st 2016, which would allow vehicles with Odd and Even registrations to ply only on alternate days. Like the rest of the world, I think it is a dumb idea. The intention might be good, to reduce pollution, but the backlash this is going to have, is going to wreak havoc across not just the National Capital Territory, but also the National Capital Region.

Note: Many readers have complained that I have a bad perspective because I’m a Mumbaikar. Just to clarify, that in the period running up to the New Year and for the next two weeks, I was a resident of the National Capital Region, living in Gurgaon and traveling to Delhi every alternate day. I was subject to the Odd-Even Joomla for 12 out of 15 days.

Before, I go forward, I just want to remind you of two things:

  • This nonsensical proposal was planned for Mumbai by the AAP’s big brother Congress, over a decade ago. It got scrapped, and for a good reason.
  • This proposal apparently works well in China. People who support it forget one thing. China is not a Democracy.

Another point to add is that the aim of this whole system is to reduce pollution, not traffic on the roads. Using that as a metric to claim its success is not valid.

So, why would this be a problem?
Enforcement Issues

Enforcing this would be a major headache. With the exception of Gurgaon, the areas of the NCR surrounding Delhi, are contiguous territories. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Ghaziabad, Faridabad, NOIDA and Delhi. Now, given that the Delhi Government, specifically the Delhi RTA, would have authority over only DL-registered vehicles, how will they stop other vehicles from plying? Delhi, by virtue of being a Union Territory, has lesser road taxes, so nobody would get a HR or UP registration to ply their vehicles. But how would they stop vehicles from other parts of the NCR from doing so? Especially since places like Faridabad and NOIDA don’t have that good public transport as Delhi!

Extra Load on Existing Infrastructure

This move will screw up the way people travel in Delhi. Delhiites love poking fun at Mumbaikars for the Suburban Rail, calling it smelly, overcrowded, and what not. There is a statement, “Darr ke aage Jeet Hai, aur Dadar ke aage Seat Hai”, which translates to “There is Victory ahead of Fear, and a Seat ahead of Dadar”. Atleast, the Suburban, by virtue of not being air-conditioned, has stale air being pumped out from inside the train. More importantly, we have Fast trains in Bombay. We don’t have to sit in a train from Churchgate to Virar stopping at every single station on its way. The Delhi Metro is worse than the Mumbai Suburban in terms of crowd. DMRCL often goofs up by running 6 car trains to Gurgaon and 4 car trains to Faridabad.

There is this video of officers pushing people into the train, where they are packed like sardines in a tin can so that the doors can close. I have seen people pushing each other inside and being stuffed in a similar manner in Gurgaon-bound trains. The Delhi public will not travel in the Ring Railway, thus making Metro the ONLY way to travel around for those who need to go long distances. The situation in the MMR cannot be compared because the MMR has multiple railway lines, one Metro line, plus one Monorail, plus the killer combination of BEST, TMT, NMMT. No matter how unethical NMMT and TMT are, they are far more efficient than the DTC and its new sibling the DIMTS. This will also push up the crowds in buses, which already crowded. Delhi buses are filthy cheap, and this makes it worse. With a reported 400 buses breaking down each day, this means that the government has to hire more buses, which is resulting in the steady comeback of Blueline buses.

EMERGENCY

What if I have an emergency, I need to get out of my house in a hurry? What if my office is in the other end of the city and I don’t a have a Metro line anywhere near me? What if someone in my house is sick and I need to take them to the Hospital? Rich or poor, I am not going to buy a new car. This move will also affect carpoolers. What if five people who carpool, rotating cars on a daily basis, all have Even-numbered registrations? What if all are Odd-numbered? Has this been considered? I don’t think so. This move will affect Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber massively.

Fake Number Plates

Back in 2005, the Central Government had amended Section 50(2)(d) of the Central Motor Vehicle Rules [CMVR] to mandate the implementation of High Security Number plates. This was later upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2011. These plates had security features such as a Hologram, could NOT be tampered-with and had to be fixed by an officer of the RTO only. So far only a handful of states including Sikkim, Goa, Gujarat, have implemented it. Anyone can duplicate number plates and change it daily. This is going to give a new boost to these fake number plate manufacturers however.

Priorities

Noble or not, the Delhi government has got its priorities wrong. Massively.

If the state government is seriously interested in reducing air pollution, it needs to start coordinating with the Centre, and other States in the NCR to find a long term solution to tackle the issue. The NCT is super congested, and banning certain vehicles on certain days is going to compound the issue rather than solve the problem. Delhi’s AC buses are already pathetic, and this is going to render them useless. Better public transport, and better connectivity, is what will show results, filling pockets of autowallahs who don’t charge per the meter won’t. Further, the ban on Surge Pricing for Cab aggregators like Uber and Ola is worsening the situation, causing a lack of cabs in places that require them and letting the Auto mafia rule.

In 1989, Mexico City implemented a similar plan. The net result? People stopped using Public Transport. Yes, they stopped using public transport.

Exemptions

Recently, the Delhi government announced a few exemptions. Among them are:

  • All two wheelers
  • CNG Vehicles
  • Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
  • Women Drivers with a Male Child of Upto Age 12
  • President, Vice President, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministers of other States, except Delhi
  • Emergency Vehicles
  • Defence Vehicles
  • Vehicles of SPG Protectees
  • Those On the Way to a Hospital [With Proof]

Now these exemptions, are major loopholes. Two wheelers are exempt. Are they not polluting? Evidently, Kejriwal and team have never been to Pune or Bangalore. According to a recent IIT Kanpur report: 46% pollution is created by trucks in the city when it comes to both PM 10 and PM 2.5. Two-wheelers contribute to 33% of the pollution, 10% is contributed by four-wheelers. Buses contribute to 5% of the pollution, whereas 4% is done by light commercial vehicles, and the rest is the contribution of three-wheelers and other factors.

CNG Vehicles, which make up most of the Public Transport. So, again, not much difference, people an pay ₹50k, get a CNG conversion done and keep going. Further, what stops a CNG vehicle from driving on Petrol? Hybid and Electric is fine to a certain extent, but then we must remember, these vehicles are expensive, and thus, the rich car owners of South Delhi can rejoice. Again, what stops a Hybrid vehicle from switching to fuel? Women Drivers with a Male Child? What sort of rubbish is this? So every woman in the household will now drive with her kid next to her. Official, Emergency and Defence Vehicles fine. Those on the way to the hospital must furnish proof? So if a car is stopped, you can throw a fit at the officers feet and he’ll let you go?

Commissioner of Police Delhi, BS Bassi, stated that out of 85lakh vehicles, 70lakh were exempt. What kind of rule is this? Lawyers have also been exempted from this rule.

The proposed fine for this is ₹2000 for each offence. Well done GNCTD, Well Done. You have successfully ruined a decent city.

Claiming that it was a success, two hours after it was launched, on a long weekend, when schools were shut in the winter, has to be the most illogical statement without any scientific backing whatsoever.

Updates

On 27th January, the Central Pollution Control Board stated that:

Overall, it can be stated that while some reduction in air pollution is likely to happen due to odd-even scheme, a single factor or action cannot substantially reduce air pollution levels in Delhi. Therefore, a comprehensive set of actions following an integrated approach is required to make substantial improvement in air quality,”

CNG Sticker Scam

With Round 2 of the Odd-Even scheme announced in April, a new twist has emerged.

The GNCTD had mandated that in order to be exempt from the earlier Odd-Even mess, all CNG vehicles would require a CNG sticker. These holographic stickers would be available at Indraprastha Gas stations. However, it has now emerged that these stickers could either be fake or sold off to car owners who don’t have a CNG vehicle.

Journalist Rahul Kanwal of India Today had this to tweet out about it.

Complete con job. Every other car at ITO has a CNG sticker. When I ask if the driver can open the boot – he freaks. Aise koi fayda nahi!

 

IVRS Scam

Another point to be noted was the IVRS Scam. Originally posted by the Frustrated Indian, this scam basically involved fake figures to showcase the Odd-Even hoopla as a success.

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Buy the ticket, board the Bus

So I took a bus from Gurgaon to Faridabad. Just like the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation [TNSTC], the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation [KSRTC], Haryana Roadways [HR] and the Delhi Transport Corporation [DTC] make the mistake of running JnNURM buses on Inter-city routes. TNSTC-Villupuram runs Volvo B7RLE buses that the Metropolitan Transport Coporation [MTC] of Chennai received under JnNURM on Chennai-Pondicherry routes along East Coast Road and the Grand Southern Trunk Road, while its Kerala counterpart runs them from Cochin to Trivandrum via Allepy or Kollam. Similarly, DTC runs its JnNURM low-floor AC and non-AC buses from various parts of Delhi to Gurgaon. Haryana Roadways, meanwhile runs various AC, non-AC buses from Delhi, Faridabad, Chandigarh and Gurgaon to each other.

Now, my point with this post is not about the use of JnNURM buses on intercity routes, but something totally different.

Now, for some background on this topic, you might want read my earlier post on Conductor-less buses.

MSRTC
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket.
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

MSRTC runs conductor-less buses on multiple routes; Mumbai-Pune, Pune-Ahmednagar-Aurangabad, Pune-Kolhapur, Pune-Sangli among others. The principle here is that there is a booth, wherever the Bus Stops, with a Conductor waiting, who issues you a ticket.

An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket.
An MSRTC Mahabus-Shivneri ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

The purpose of this model, as discussed before, is to eliminate the need for a conductor on-board the bus, thus reducing travel time and costs on employing conductors.

Prior to Electronic tickets, ST conductors at these booths would issue punched tickets, and these would be logged under the individual conductors sales, and the numbers would be written on the trip-sheet.

 

Haryana Roadways

Now, for the Haryana Roadways model! If this can be called one that is. The bus I took was a Volvo B7RLE 8400 model, acquired by the Haryana Roadways Corporation – Faridabad Division under JnNURM. It was running on the Gurgaon-Faridabad-Ballabgarh route, as a city bus. Yes, as a city bus. I reached Gurgaon Bus Stand, and saw two identical Volvo buses parked next to each other. One had a Cardboard sign saying Ballabgarh in Hindi and the other had one saying Rohtak, in English. I asked a conductor if either bus would go to Faridabad, and was told that the former would go. I walked upto the Conductor and I was told to go to the Ticket counter in front of the bus. At the counter, I was given a punched ticket for ₹50. A punched ticket [yes HR conductors religiously punch tickets in all services, unlike their DTC counterparts], not a printed one.

A Haryana Roadways punched ticket.
A Haryana Roadways punched ticket. Image copyright Srikanth Ramakrishnan, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, available on the Wikimedia Commons.

I expected the service to be similar to MSRTC. But, I was mistaken.

The bus started, and left with its front door open. The conductor stood there, shouting out Faridabad, Ballabgarh, as we pulled out. The door remained open till we crossed the Sikanderpur Metro Station, after which the conductor came behind. I was seated on the last seat. He asked all of us who had bought tickets at the counter to show him the tickets, after which he pulled out a stack and issued them to those who had just boarded. The real concern here is that these are punched tickets, not printed tickets. If you remember what I had said about MSRTC in the post on Electronic Ticket Machines, this would be tricky to handle. While I bought the ticket at the counter, the conductor was next to the bus. He took his set of tickets from inside his pouch, long after we had left the Bus Stand. Obviously the guy at the counter wouldn’t have handed over his set to this fellow. Won’t logging or tracking ticket sales then be difficult? What, pray, may I ask, was the purpose in making me go and buy the ticket at the counter, when you were going to sell it inside the bus anyway?

This is something that I find fishy. I sincerely believe that the three states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat have figured out the best way to run transport services and that every other State Transport Undertaking should learn from them.

If anyone can answer why this absurdity happens, please do let me know in the comments section below.

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