by Vidyadhar Date — 06/03/2022
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, unwittingly admitted today that the operation of Metro railway network in India is a failure. He was inaugurating short stretches of two Metro lines in Pune.
He appealed to people to travel by the Metro. It was in the tone of desperation of a salesman who knows the product is expensive and does not meet real requirements of people.
In his appeal he stressed the word Bade Log, means apparently , motorists, and appealed to them to use the Metro. Adding, all should travel. It will help.
In his heart of hearts he knows facts, he knows the government will be soon exposed with a string of failures of the monumentally expensive Metro system in several cities. In Maharashtra the Nagpur metro has proved to be an absolute disaster with very poor ridership.
The fact is the government is actually betraying the people when it comes to real needs of public transport.The real need is for buses which are much more flexible than the rigid Metro network. Buses are also much cheaper. By international specifications cities should have sixty buses per one lakh population. And in India people get only 11 buses per lakh population. That is the great betrayal.
So our anti people administration produces more motor cars than are needed, there are large unsold stocks, automobile companies are in trouble but the government pampers the automobile lobby at the cost of the masses, I regularly see my public sector bank prominently offering loans for cars. The fact is many ordinary people who take loans out of false ideas of status of owning a car, are unable to afford the expenditure of running cars, then the vehicles are abandoned on roads. And banks find it difficult to get back the money while the manufacturers have their fun.
Another sign of betrayal of real needs of people, Mr Modi talked so much about Metro but had not one word for buses which are the main mode of travel for people even in London despite its huge network of Metro.
The administration is clearly not interested in meeting people’s real needs. That is why a concerted effort was made some time ago in Maharashtra to drive the iconic BEST bus network into a crisis with ill conceived ideas for the benefit of the car and Metro lobbies as also to reap a bonanza by selling huge space of bus depots.
Despite the spectacular failure of Metros, the government still insists on this expensive mode of travel, ignoring cheaper options. The Prime Minister talked of public transport and mobility but had not one word for bus users, pedestrians.
It is not that Mr Modi does not know the importance of buses. In Ahmedabd, his own home state there is a bus rapid transport bus service, among the earliest in the country.
But apparently there are more vested interests in Metro.
Many people blindly want the Metro and think it is progress,based on their travel abroad. They fall into the publicity trap of Metro who want to buy dissenters. But the reality in India is quite different. The basic need for people in our thickly populated urban area is for short distance travel and this is best served by buses.
When Mr Modi asks common people to travel by Metro, he unwittingly means you suffer hardship and pay more just because we have embarked on this project.
Before taking the metro ride from the Garware station, PM Modi also inspected an exhibition of the project put up there.
The 12-km-long route inaugurated on Sunday includes two priority stretches — Garware College to Vanaz (5 km) and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation to Phugewadi (7 km) — on two metro lines.
The total cost of the Pune metro project is over Rs 11,400 crore. The PM laid the foundation stone for the project on December 24, 2016.
As for Mumbai Metro, the state exchequer and consequently all citizens are going to pay a heavy price for the inefficiency and arrogance of MMRDA Maharashtra metropolitan region development authority. It is not a question merely of Kanjur Marg or Aarey as a site for the yard for one Metro line. The problem is much larger. The authorities have embarked on this massive project apparently without any planning for land or even funds. How else does one explain that land is yet to be acquired for other Metro lines and their future is now seriously in doubt.
So companies manufacturing commuter carriages are cancelling contracts. That means further delays. So congestion will continue for one does not know for how many months and years.
And there is so little media coverage, analysis, public protest. Apart from that the political failure at all levels is so obvious.
MMRDA has also landed itself into a financial mess with expensive projects while it dismisses with contempt low cost solutions essential for common people.
Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change