The Indore Bench of the High Court in Madhya Pradesh by its judgment of October last effectively demolished the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) of the city by allowing the use of the corridor by four- wheelers. It, later, further modified its order by directing that while in the corridor no vehicle would be permitted to overtake another.
Thus a facility built up at a great cost to promote and popularise public transport for economic and environmental reasons was given a severe jolt by none other than the country’s judiciary. The administration has reportedly gone in appeal to the Apex Court.
As in Delhi, there was hue and cry in Indore on account of the restricted space made available for the mixed traffic after demarcation of road-space for the BRTS corridor. Not only there were frequent jams, there were also frequent accidents, often fatal. The commuters were increasingly becoming frustrated as their commutes took progressively longer time.
The prolonged delay in construction, implementation and making available adequate number of buses also helped in stoking people’s rage and dissatisfaction with the whole concept. Eventually, a social activist filed a Public Interest Litigation petition in the Indore Bench which yielded the decision under reference.
Though conceptually speaking, BRTS as a system of mass mobility is supposed to be flexible taking in its stride varied permutations and combinations, yet the decision of the Court did not seem to have helped in Indore. Even after the order of the court, according to various reports, chaos reigned supreme in the corridor.
From four wheelers to two wheelers to occasional bullock carts were seen using the corridor. Obviously, it is free-for-all and the traffic in Indore being what it is - unruly, undisciplined and rash – accidents have occurred with unmitigated frequency.
Introduction of any new system always has some teething troubles unless it is so well and meticulously planned that all its elements are tied together to enable its faultless performance from day one. In our country if that has not been possible in most projects implemented by the central or state governments, the question of precision planning by the incompetent and inadequately provided municipal corporations wouldn’t arise. Both the BRTS systems in MP, for reasons best known to the government, were allowed to be implemented by the respective municipal corporations without any supervision and monitoring.
This was a major lapse on the part of the government especially when very large sums of moneys were involved in creation of physical assets that are expected to yield in the future economic and environmental benefits apart from easing the daily travail of commuters of the state’s two major urban centres.
Not only creation of the corridor was mismanaged, no effort was ever made to manage the traffic. When the Indore corridor was commissioned effort should have been to manage, supervise and guide the commuters at least for some time if not for ever.
Having seen them in action we all know how the Indore drivers behave. It is not their fault really as the traffic wing of the Police has left them to their own devices. They were never insisted upon to know the traffic rules and they were hardly ever checked as to whether they were observing the rules of the roads.
Most of the drivers either do not know or ignore the rules of accessing a main road, negotiating a round-about or even going past a zebra crossing with people on it. Penalties for breaches are negligible and are generally determined by a populist political dispensation. The pivotal role of traffic management was somehow lost sight of and the traffic administration on the roads has been conspicuous by its absence both in Bhopal and Indore. No wonder there is a free-for-all.
One of the judges of the High Court bench stated in a television interview that BRTS has failed wherever it was introduced in India. He asserted quite erroneously that it had failed even in Ahmedabad. Perhaps, he was misinformed as the Ahmedabad BRTS has fetched kudos even abroad and representatives of a few governments from Africa and South-East Asia came to look at this success story.
Unfortunately what succeeds elsewhere does not generally succeed in India, much less in Madhya Pradesh. The reason seems to be that while there is a penchant to act in breach of rules the governance is awfully weak.
What the High Court has done is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Instead of prescribing stiffer management of traffic its decision has rendered a facility created at great cost to public exchequer utterly redundant forgetting that in the short term there was likelihood of inconveniences but in the long term BRTS would have been of great benefit to all its users in our ever-enlarging cities.
Besides, the court also seems to have lost sight of the fact that in India the rationale of introducing BRTS was to nudge four and two-wheeler users towards public transport in order not only to curb the mounting import bill on oil but also curb the rising carbon emissions of the country.
It is, therefore, necessary for the administration to enforce strict traffic management to ensure functioning of the BRTS just as it was conceived for the benefit of a vast section of the population that is dependent on public transport for easy mobility and speedy commutes.
At the risk of repetition, one has to mention that strict traffic management in both, the mixed lanes and in the corridor is of the essence. The minority of road-users who use personal vehicles cannot be allowed to hog all the road-space to the detriment of the vast majority.
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