The pathetic and inadequate public transport system in Mumbai benefits everyone except the common people and hence it is left in dire straits, say experts
Mumbai’s public transport continues to be in dire straits with inadequate public bus transport along with issues of soaring fuel prices and fare hikes. And while transport activists and the government may lament about growing private cars, the fact is that the city is doing nothing to nudge people to migrate from private cars to public transport. In fact, one has a sneaking suspicion that this is deliberate, after all a whole eco-system around the automobile industry benefits from the poor public transport. Every one, except harried Mumbaikars, profits from it.
Consider this. The automobile industry is happy with zooming vehicle sales. According to city’s regional transport officer (RTO), during the twenty years from 1990 to 2010, the number of cars has gone up to 5.62 lakh from 2.40 lakhs while two-wheelers stood at nearly 10 lakh from 2.31 lakh. The numbers must be up significantly at present. The rising sales are also benefiting the automobile ancillary industry including tyre companies, servicing centres and other allied companies. Even the government is emerging as a beneficiary of this increase in auto sales.
For instance, RTO-Mumbai, reportedly, registered a 20% increase in the car registration and earned revenues of Rs3,500 crore in 2010-11 alone. In addition, there are revenues from the increasing number of driving license applications. Again, touts and agents are earning a moolah, as many people use them for obtaining or renewing driving license. Taxis successfully managed to increase fares by Re1. Private radio cab drivers of Meru are on an indefinite strike due to a dispute with the management. But commuters continue to bear the brunt of it.
However, while the number of cars is growing there is a dearth of adequate parking space in the city. More cars require more parking spaces. While the city has inadequate parking space, the BMC’s (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) solution is to hike parking charges without even constructing new parking blocks. The BMC simply uses scarce road space for more money. In fact on Sundays, it is been noticed that the parking rates in several prominent areas significantly go up.
To top that, traffic congestion, poorly maintained roads, refusal by the errant taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers, add to commuters’ agony. Even there is no dedicated public bus service at the Mumbai airport, like other metros in India, connecting to other parts of the city. Taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers refuse to ferry passengers, especially on short distances while dearth of pre-paid taxis leaves passengers stranded at the airport terminals for as much as two hours. Moneylife Foundation submitted a memorandum for starting a dedicated air conditioned bus shuttle at the Mumbai airport to the chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan. The issue was also highlighted in newspaper DNA, but has got no response yet.
BEST (Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking), which has monopoly in city’s public bus transport, has far less buses compared to cities like Guangzhou (China), also one of the populated cities in the world like Mumbai.
Experts on transportation say while Mumbai’s local trains considered to be its life line, are over utilised, BEST is inefficient and under-utilized. There is no effort to rationalize their alternative use. When local train services are stopped on Sundays for maintenance work, Mumbaikars have harrowing travelling experience.
Take the case of Sunita (name changed), a daily commuter, who considers herself unlucky to be working on Sundays. Mega blocks, where train services are halted for several hours; and infrequent and reduced BEST buses, are the main reason why she hates travelling to Powai from South Mumbai on Sundays.
Consider this. Sunita prefers to travel by bus. But there is exactly one BEST bus, route number 27, from Worli Depot to Vikhroli (near Powai) after every half hour. “In such case air conditioned fleet is an ideal compromise between comfort and expense. But this service plies under limitations as BEST’s AS-1 does not operate on Sundays and the AS-2 starts only at 10.50am from Worli (I need to leave by 9 am); the first AS-3 is at 10.25 am and so on. Same is the case for other buses if one wants to visit the Western suburbs on Sunday,” she says.
She added that many BEST buses run on lower frequency. “Try taking a bus from SV Road, Santacruz to Flora Fountain or Churchgate or Colaba (or any stop along this major route). You will either have two to three buses appearing at once or nothing for half an hour. Meanwhile at Worli, you would see many buses go by only to stop at Tardeo. BEST bus no 81, 83, 84 are woefully infrequent and these ply on major routes such as SV Road from Andheri or Santacruz, through LJ Road at Mahim, directly to Prabhadevi, Worli, Peddar Road and Flora Fountain. This situation has deteriorated. Bus no 31, no longer stops at most bus stops and the route has changed to go via Worli Seaface. If Seaface is so important, why not have additional buses instead of redirecting an important route? There were some express buses introduced, C-1 or some such thing, but they have been discontinued,” she said.
She adds, “I don’t know if the BEST management sits at home on Sundays. They need to come out and get a perspective on passenger traffic. One would think a commercial hub like Mumbai needs adequate transport for all seven days of the week, especially given our population and a significant working population on Sundays.”
While the demand for efficient public transport is falling on deaf ears, activists on transport say that authorities should consider commuters’ issues before announcing any transport related project. “I wouldn’t say efficient public transport will reduce private vehicles. The argument is partly correct but given the desire and lifestyle people have, they still want to own a car. So taxes should be imposed on people using cars. This budget they (the BMC) gave allocation for road maintenance but this won’t solve the issue of traffic snarls. It’s high time the authorities rationalize the bus routes. They are running in losses because of poor management. Efforts should be made to actually understand the problems of the commuters”, says Ashok Datar, a Mumbai-based activist.
S Sriraman, professor of transport economic, University of Mumbai says that, “To address to issue of public transport, there should be more number of public buses. It’s a long pending demand. Special bus lanes at some routes should be provided and after trial and error finally BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) should be introduced. People will travel without their cars only if they have the option of a good public transport system. This also addresses the issue of inadequate parking spaces. There is also an urgent need to overhaul the BEST routes. Many of the buses are run empty while others are packed.”
The BMC in its recent budget mentions about roads, however improving the public transport system in completely ignored. Considering these factors, will Mumbai offer an effective and smooth public transportation making people to actually use it?
Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Mr Singh, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, said the four fields have 617 billion cubic feet of reserves and can produce gas for eight years.
The government has approved Reliance Industries’ $1.529 billion plan to produce over 10 million standard cubic meters per day of gas from four satellite fields in the flagging KG-D6 block.
RIL and its partners, BP Plc of UK and Niko Resources of Canada, are likely to start producing natural gas from the four fields around mid-2016, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, R P N Singh, said.
The investment plan, which will help boost falling output in the Krishna-Godavari Basin KG-D6 block, has been pending with the authorities for two years.
The KG-D6 block oversight committee, which includes officials from the Oil Ministry and its technical arm, the DGH, on 3 January 2012 approved the investment plan.
“The Management Committee of the block KG-DWN-98/3 (or KG—D6)... has approved Optimised Field Development Plan (OFPD) of four satellite gas discoveries namely D-2, 6, 19 and 22 in the block on 3 January 2012 at an estimated capital expenditure to the tune of $1,529.05 million,” he said.
Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Mr Singh said the four fields have 617 billion cubic feet of reserves and can produce gas for eight years.
“The contractor (RIL) has initiated activities related to the OFPD,” he added.
The four fields can produce 10.36 million cubic metres of gas a day by 2016, which will help shore up output from the block, which has seen over 40% decline in production in the past 18 months to just over 34 mmcmd. RIL has so far made 18 gas discoveries in the KG-D6 block.
Of these, D-1 and D-3, the largest among the lot, were brought into production from April, 2009, but output has fallen sharply from 54 mmcmd, in March 2010, to 28.16 mmcmd this month. Together with 6.46 mmcmd of associated gas produced from the MA oilfield in the same area, total production from the block amounts to 34.62 mmscmd.
The company had in July 2008, submitted a FDP to exploit reserves of 1,708 billion cubic feet (bcf) in nine satellite gas discoveries (D-2, D-4, D-6, D-7, D-8, D-16, D-19, D-22 and D-23) in the D6 block at an estimated capex of $5.6 billion.
It later submitted an optimised development plan for four of the satellite gas fields (D-2, D-6, D-19 and D-22) at the end of 2009.
‘More than half of the respondents believe China offers the maximum opportunity for rapid growth opportunities, followed by India at 46% and Brazil at 26%:’ Tata Communications survey.
India has emerged as the second most promising market after China in terms of maximum opportunity for rapid growth among emerging market economies, says a survey.
According to the survey by Tata Communications in association with research company Vanson Bourne, more than half of the respondents believe China offers the maximum opportunity for rapid growth opportunities, followed by India at 46% and Brazil at 26%.
Russia is a distant eighth with just 11% of emerging market business leaders feeling it offers rapid business growth, according to the survey covering 1,600 business leaders from ten emerging and developed markets.
Going ahead, 39% of all global respondents stated that their organisation is looking at expanding into India, making it the second most favoured market for global expansion after China at 51%. 33% identified Brazil as a likely target market and 19% selected Russia.
Furthermore, China led the pack of FTSE Emerging Market Index countries considered to be most progressive, as 42% of respondents from China, India, South Africa and the Middle East selected China. This compares with 27% who selected India and just 1% who indicated that they believed Russia to be most progressive.
Signalling the growing influence of developing markets in the global economy, as many as 85% of business leaders in India look to other emerging markets for growth and plan to increase their investments there in the near future.
Notwithstanding the political uncertainty, 87% of business leaders from both developed and developing markets (China, India, South Africa, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Middle East, the USA and the UK) are actively engaging in emerging markets, the study said.
As many as 61% of Indian companies are currently looking at operating in emerging markets, while 55% of Singaporean respondents, 45% of Middle Eastern and 40% of South African businesses have already set up operations in emerging markets.
"For companies to capitalise on that potential, we need to see greater levels of investment in the infrastructure that is essential to support it. That will inevitably require more focus on developing talent and innovative thinking in markets that can have less educational investment in those areas," Tata Communications MD and CEO Vinod Kumar said.
Interestingly, 75% of Indian respondents selected India as the market they felt offered most rapid growth opportunities and Indian companies expect to increase their investment in emerging markets, including India, by 39% in the next year.