News reports are coming in that the new government in Delhi is planning to scrap the 5.8 km long Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor. The BRT corridor provided dedicated lanes for buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Despite the controversy surrounding it, the BRT represents a vast improvement in public transport in Delhi.
According to a report by Central Road Research Institute (table 4.6.1), the number of bus passengers on the BRT corridor is more than twice the number of passengers in cars. On the other hand, the number of buses itself is only one tenth the number of cars. Buses are also much more environment friendly, compact, and safer means of mobility than private cars. Logically, then, buses deserve priority access on the road, because they take more passengers, while private car travel needs to be discouraged. These are precisely the goals that the BRT achieved in Delhi.
The same report mentions that over 60% of bus users, almost 60% of cyclists on the corridor, and more than 51% of the pedestrians gave the BRT an over-all rating of Good or Very good (figure 4.11.3). Similarly, in a survey conducted by the Center for Science and Environment, 83% of the respondents said that they were happy with dedicated BRT lanes and 88% wanted the BRT to be expanded in other areas.
However, the BRT corridor has faced stiff opposition from elite interests in Delhi – notably car-owners and wealthy residents of Delhi, and the English media, which is controlled by these elite interests. Residents of GK, one of Delhi’s richest neighborhoods, campaigned for the removal of BRT, and Saurabh Bharadwaj, the current MLA from GK and former transport minister, made a promise to these rich residents that he will get the BRT scrapped.
Delhi is the most polluted city that humanity has ever lived in, according to the WHO. Private cars contributes to a significant proportion of these emissions, and pollution in Delhi increases infant mortality, malnutrition, respiratory diseases and cancer. In stead of making a plan to strengthen public transport in Delhi, the Delhi government is bowing down to rich and powerful people in Delhi who drive cars.
Scrapping separate lanes for buses is a way of expropriating the time of the poor and giving it to the rich. We would like you to join us in thinking about ways to effectively protest against this regressive move and to hold this supposedly pro-poor Delhi government accountable.
Possible action items include preventing cars from entering the bus lane on the BRT corridor, signature campaigns on buses and pedestrian paths, protests and demos around the BRT and other official areas, mobilisation online on social media, op-eds and aricles, posters and other campaign activities. We also feel that this is a good opportunity to bring issues of public transport and pollution to the forefront.
Please do feel free to contact any of us by phone or email if you are unable to come but wish to contribute suggestions and inputs and stay in the loop.
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