Pune: Commuters recount horrors of travelling on crowded buses

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Pune, 18 July 2020:A dialogue was organized by Pune-based NGO Parisar as part of the Lakhala 50 (Lakh ko Pachaas) campaign, which is part of a nationwide campaign to demand that both the National and State Governments launch a comprehensive program to ensure that cities are assured a good bus-based public transport system. The campaign highlights the need for at least 50 buses per lakh residents, a benchmark set by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

The State campaign aims to petition the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, calling upon his Government to announce a policy that will make public transport a mandatory service by the 27 Municipal Corporations in the State. Maharashtra is one of the most urbanized states in India, with over 5 crores of its population living in urban areas. Public transport is poor and even non-existent in most of the cities, which have seen explosive growth in vehicles and with it, chronic congestion and pollution.

Parisar, along with SUM Net members and partners, is organising a dialogue in 6 cities in Maharashtra, aimed at getting stakeholders discussing the need for affordable bus service in the city and the impact the absence of such a service has on the community.

The second of these dialogues were held (virtually) in Pune on Friday and was live-streamed on Parisar’s Facebook page. PMPML, the public bus service provider for the Pune Metropolitan area which includes the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad Corporations, runs a fleet of 1466 buses (on-road) to serve a population of 64 lakh or just about 23 buses per lakh residents.

This city dialogue saw the participation of different stakeholders – experts, commuters, conductors, activists and advocates. Ar. Ashik Jain, the Bicycle Mayor of PCMC and an urban planner mentioned how cities like London despite having a large Metro network, have almost 100 buses per lakh residents. Shweta, from the NGO Masum (Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal), painted a vivid picture of the hardships faced by young women while travelling on over-crowded buses and the mental trauma this creates. Many commuters pointed out that even carrying a school bag or backpack on a bus creates problems.

“Post-COVID, cities will have to increase their fleet strength, and this will need financial support from the Government of Maharashtra. We are calling upon the Chief Minister to strengthen public transport in all cities as part of Mission Begin Again to help revive the economy and create sustainable and safe cities”, said campaign manager, Swati Pathak of Parisar.

The campaign has been launched by the Sustainable Urban Mobility Network (SUM Net), a coalition of individuals, voluntary organizations, and civil society networks and movements promoting sustainable urban transport solutions across India.