Here is Why Smart Cities Mission Focuses More on Offering Reliable Public Transport!

 A 29-year-old computer science graduate, Mahesh Desai (name changed) from Maharashtra’s Akola City shifted to Pune and joined a company based in Viman Nagar. The organization does not provide pick up and drop to its employees. Due to high real estate (rental) rates in Viman Nagar, Mahesh rented a room in Pune’s Warje area, next to his uncle’s house. He selected Warje because of low rental and he had lived in that area during his college life, a few years back.

While going for the interview, Mahesh traveled in Pune’s public transport- PMPML bus. These buses do not follow their timetable. Buses often break down and ticket rates are sky high.  So, after clearing the interview, Desai decided to travel on his bike on a-daily-basis.

On day one, a 25-kilometer drive from Warje to the Viman Nagar office took an hour while going. But while coming back from office, the same distance took two hours, and Mahesh was exhausted due to the strain of the lengthy commute.  Due to heavy traffic during the evening, his bike took 45 minutes just to travel from Viman Nagar Chowk on Pune Nagar Road to the Ruby Hall Clinic Chowk.

The salary that the concerned company was paying was too less compared to the rental and deposit required by landlords in areas nearby the office. So, shifting to another accommodation was not an option, at least during the probation period.  After attending just five days of training, Mahesh decided to resign from his job because traveling for such a long time triggered back pain and sinus issues.

Also read: Public Transport Can Impact Peoples’ Health

 Unfortunately, there are many individuals who have no other option but to travel such distances in hectic traffic on a-daily-basis for their bread and butter. Pune Metro Rail route from Wanaj (Kothrud) to Ramwadi (next to Viman Nagar) is in the planning stage since 2008.

Today, you need at least one hour thirty minutes to travel from Kothrud to Viman Nagar on a bike during peak hours. On the other hand, the planned Metro Rail can cover this distance in just around twenty minutes. But, the Congress-NCP controlled PMC is in no mood to improve the public transport in Pune even when people are struggling. City’s air pollution level is expected to cross Delhi’s pollution level within few months, due to vehicular pollution.

BJP led state and central government is willing to extend complete support for the Metro Rail project. Minister Nitin Gadkari even convinced German banks to finance the project. But bike makers and petrol pump owners (mostly Congress leaders) are strongly lobbying to keep public transport poor, as pointed out by MNS Chief Raj Thackeray during his Pune speech in Feb 2012. Instead of clearing the hurdles, politicians from Pune are bringing in new ones to delay the project.

Related: Pune’s PMPML officials sold brand new buses purchased under JNNURM to third parties?

 By now, almost everyone must be aware that efficient public transport is considered an important element in PM Modi’s ambitious Smart Cities Mission. It is clear that public transport has been given weightage because it can help in reducing air pollution, reduce road accidents, and help in improving people’s quality of life.

Cab app companies are spending lakhs of rupees every month on publishing stories to show how people can save money by hiring a cab every day instead of buying their own car. One popular website even published an article to show how cab apps can benefit the government.  Let’s leave those confusing calculations to accountants and look at this from common man’s point of view.

Car pooling may not prove to be safe, and crime stories involving cab drivers from renowned cab app companies indicate the same. Plus, such options may not prove to be affordable for people from lower income groups. If more than 40 percent of the country’s population is below the poverty line, how many people would prefer to pay around Rs.350 for traveling 30 KM on a daily basis?

On the other hand, world class public transport, preferably Metro or Monorail, can offer safe journey at an affordable rate for the general public. Metro Rail fare may prove to be a certain percentage higher than bus fare in some cities, but it’s much more reliable.

Pune-based life coach, psychotherapist, entrepreneur, and motivator Vikrant Bhujbalrao recently interacted with Post Card News and shared his opinion about the impact of public transport.

 “The equation is simple; people spend around 9 to 12 hours in the office each day. On an average, in a city like Pune, they spend two to three hours in traveling, due to traffic and other issues. So, assuming that they sleep for 8 hours, they hardly get one or two hours to manage their personal, family time. In these limited hours, either they will watch TV, will be busy with a smartphone, or go out for dinner. Such lifestyle may not offer true satisfaction in the life of an individual. Such routine will negatively influence his/her level of happiness,”-said Bhujbalrao.

Thus, all the non-BJP ruled state and municipal (local) governments must come ahead and support PM Modi’s initiatives taken towards improving public transport in order to make people’s life easy. Politicians must not fall prey to traps placed by lobbyists working for (some) auto giants, cab app companies, and fuel pump owners.

Nitten Gokhaley