Taken for a Ride

One often reads Delhi CM’s quotes in newspapers talking about how the Delhi Metro has benefited our transport system and how the hardworking Cabinet of Ministers are always busy in chalking out new transport schemes for the capital.

Delhi is one place that is never sans action; action in politics, on stage, in concerts or roads. There is action everywhere. However, if one has to talk about the most active aspect of the city, then it has to be its roads. Not a single day goes without accidents on the roads, expressways or flyovers. So much action and efforts for better transport infrastructure but still the city is a patient of obesity, obesity of a different kind. Obesity that makes the babu and the mantri log richer by the day, and leaves the citizens with no comfortable and safe means of transport. Research projects are heavily funded and so are the construction programs to make the city travel smoother, but will it ever become so till problems at ground level are taken care of? Though there are loopholes of all sizes and species in the transport system of Delhi, but one devil which refuses to die out is “The overcrowded Indian bus”.

Delhi, being the capital of India, proudly upholds the tag of ‘overpopulated’. However, the problem of overcrowded buses is not a product of overpopulation alone. There is a serious error in the way routes of these buses are planned and the number of buses to be deployed are decided. Stand at a bus-stop and you will notice at least 5 buses will pass with passengers not more then 10 or 15 and hardly anybody standing on the bus-stop will board it and then will come a bus with human beings stuffed in it thrice its capacity. And the entire crowd, which was there with you, all this while, will board it because this was the bus they were waiting for. Keep standing there and notice the same regime repeating itself. Common sense will tell you that more buses should be deployed for the route on which most people travel. We know where the problem lies and so does the blue lines that their owner deploys only on profitable routes but DTC does not. Private operators run increased number of buses on popular routes but still there buses are never optimally crowded. In there case reasons are different because they aim at stuffing as much on a single trip. Most number of accidents which involve buses occur due to overcrowded buses. Seeing a man toggling between two vehicles while he is boarding one of them in the peak hours of morning is a usual sight. He falls down and gets crashed between either of them. This is what happened in an accident at Pushp Vihar red light last year. In fact lives are not the only thing, which are in danger. Most cases of molestation occur in these overcrowded buses only. The Delhi man sees a stuffed bus as the best place to take advantage of the female standing next to him.

This problem will not appear grave to the government because the people who are at the helm of things, travel in their “special” air conditioned cars, for whom traffic is cleared whenever they venture out.

It will be really do the public some good if the government decides to withdraw some buses from unpopular routes and deploy them on needy ones. Private players can obviously continue the way they are but government should do something about it. Especially when it need not spend something out of its coffers.

There is another way by which this problem can be solved. Both of Delhi and states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc, whose bus services to Delhi always run into losses, have a number of buses which connect Delhi via this means of transport. These buses may run between Gwalior in MP to Delhi but not a single passenger will board it from Gwalior. These buses have round the clock service, have few passengers and consume a lot of fuel. By monitoring the number of buses deployed and the timings of these buses, the government can thus generate more revenue. Hence, the underlying solution is that bus system of Delhi and neighboring states need an overhaul so that the routes and the number of buses should be deployed after keeping both profit and comfort in mind.

Monica Verma

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/284630998/]