Amid severe smog and pollution, Delhi citizens is gasping for air. And, CM Arvind Kejriwal is facing flak from various quarters over poor public transport facilities. Reportedly, Arvind Kejriwal has pulled up senior officers, including the chief secretary of Delhi, over delay in procurement of new DTC buses. In the meeting, Kejriwal expressed deep displeasure and pulled up officers over delay in procurement of DTC buses despite the fact the court had asked the city administration to maintain a fleet of at least 11,000 buses many years ago to boost public transport. This action by Kejriwal comes hours after criticism by the opposition that the AAP government had not been able to add a single bus to the DTC fleet since it came to power in the city. Earlier this month, Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta had alleged that the AAP government has not added even a single bus to its fleet in its tenure. The Delhi High Court has termed the need for more buses in the city a grave urgency and said the AAP government needed to address it on a war-footing. Also, the National Green Tribunal had rapped Kejriwal government and asked, “Are you (Delhi government) not responsible for safety of ladies who do not have cars and travel by metros and buses on a daily basis? Why can’t you have special ladies buses?”
As of now, Delhi has 5,594 buses operating under Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) and cluster scheme.
What Kejriwal government has to say on lack of DTC buses?
As per May, 2016 report of Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), Delhi needs 460 acres of land for parking of these buses, says the Delhi government. “The available bus depot land with the Delhi government is 257 acres. Further, its bus depots are under construction over 68 acres of land. For parking of 11,000 buses, there is an additional requirement of 135 acres,” Delhi minister Kailash Gahlot said. The minister said the Delhi government had made payment of around Rs 90.5 crore, but the possession of this land has not been given so far.
Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has written to Lt Governor Anil Baijal seeking directions to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to allot 135 acres of land to the city government to augment its bus fleet. In the letter, the transport minister had also cited the August, 2007 High Court order to authorities to increase the number of buses to 11,000.
What Kejriwal government wants to do now?
On Tuesday, hours after the National Green Tribunal refused to exempt women and two-wheelers and ordered that diesel vehicles over ten years old be taken off the roads immediately, the Delhi government again moved the green panel seeking the same exemption for a year or till 2,000 buses are added to the public transport fleet. The modified petition was filed hours after the NGT expressed concern over the high pollution level, terming it an environmental and health emergency and saying that the city should not gift infected lungs to its children.
The fresh petition claimed that denying exemption to the two-wheelers, whose number is above 68 lakh, and women would cause great hardship and may affect safety of women. “The conditions prescribed for such implementation are such in nature that the implementation of the scheme will cause great hardship to two wheeler owners. This may affect the safety and security of women drivers also,” the petition said. It said that in case of inclusion of two wheelers in the scheme, at least 25 lakh two wheelers owners will have to use the other modes of transport on a particular day.
“In order to accommodate 25 lakh additional passengers, the government would require at least 2,500 buses for successful implementation of the scheme and to avoid any hardship to the public, leading to disruption of economic activities and livelihood of majority of two wheelers,” it said. It also sought exemption for the women saying they would not find themselves comfortable while travelling in heavily crowded public buses because of reasons of safety. “This government was not able to procure sufficient number of buses so far because of non-availability of land for construction of depots. Now, the depot space has been created for about 2000 buses and the Government of Delhi has already approved the proposal to engage 1000 buses in cluster scheme and to purchase 1000 buses by Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC),” it said.
The Kejriwal government said it expected that the tender to acquire 2,000 buses will be finalised in three months and the buses should start coming in the next six months. “The problem of shortage of public transport will be largely addressed within one year, after which the two wheelers and the women drivers can be included in the non-exempted categories,” it said.
NGT says no to exemptions to women, bikers
The National Green Tribunal had refused to exempt women and two-wheelers from the Delhi government’s odd-even car rationing scheme and directed it to ensure that over 10-year-old diesel vehicles be taken off the roads without delay. The Delhi government withdrew its plea as the NGT was not convinced with its submission that the city did not have adequate public transport to cater to over 25 lakh commuters.