It is often said that a country's civilisational level is best manifested on the streets of its cities. The mismanagement and apathy of the government towards public transportation and traffic regulation shock foreign visitors who come to Delhi. The safety and comfort of ordinary citizens should become the focus of the government's transportation policy.
Today, Delhi's public transportation system is probably the worst among the metropolitan cities of India and a shame for the nation. No other sector carries such a distinct stamp of 10 years of bad governance based on pro-rich policies. The Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), which was imposed on the city suddenly and without any scientific basis, has deepened the urban nightmare rather than solved it.
There is no need to reiterate here the unmanageable situations that have resulted from the explosion in Delhi's vehicle population. It is reported that 2,500 new cars are registered every day. Delhi already has more vehicles than the quantum of all other Indian metropolitan cities. The Delhi Government don't have a policy to tackle this situation. A situation that would ensue when an unprecedented number of cars clog Delhi's limited road space.
We must do everything possible within the perimeter of democratic governance to tackle the menacing car population which not only results in traffic chaos but also pollutes the air. The suggestions available from the global experience include imposing huge taxation on car owners for both their vehicles and road-use, withdrawing registration to cars that have completed a fixed number of years, disallowing out-of-state registered cars from plying in Delhi unless they meet certain terms, etc. Being out of the Government, the BJP is not in a position to take a decision towards solving these issues because the actual data on vehicles, road space, projections, etc. are not available to us. However, we are committed towards taking a long-term view of the problem and will take firm steps to ensure that private car ownership goes in accordance with our larger commitment to the environment and improving the quality of life in Delhi.
The views of experts from all persuasions would be taken into consideration. Nothing will be done without proper project reports and audits. The BRT, in its present form, will be treated as a mistake and folded back without delay. An inquiry will be lodged against the officials and so-called "experts" whose whims led to the loss of Rs 1,000 crore in public funds and the loss of at least 12 lives. The families of those killed on the "khuni" BRT will be given adequate compensation.
The number of heavy vehicles operating on the streets of Delhi during busy hours has grown by alarming proportions. There should be proper regulations to curb the movement of trucks in the city, especially those carrying chemicals, fuel and other dangerous substances. The government's apathy towards the safety of the people becomes clear when we see trucks carrying steel rods extending beyond the chassis.
We must take a holistic look at this problem and ensure that the movements of heavy vehicles do not pose a threat to citizens. Since most of them come from other states where emission norms are not stringently maintained, the government should ensure there are adequate number of truck terminals outside the city.
It was the BJP who set the ball rolling for Delhi's mass rapid transportation project, popularly known as the Metro. Its pace of construction and spread has spread on public demand. We must ensure that there is connectivity between metro stations and interior areas. Buses must be withdrawn on major routes so that the twin necessities of reducing pressure on roads and air pollution are addressed. Rather, there should be buses plying only between metro stations and interior areas. This will lead to the viability of the MRT system and reduce the government subsidy required to run it. A holistic approach must be taken so as to link MRT use with car ownership. The challenge before us in the second decade would be to persuade more and more people to use public transportation instead of private cars.
The linkage between schools and Delhi Metro would lead to large-scale reduction of pollution, traffic congestion and accidents involving children. There should be a policy wherein buses would transfer children to Metro stations and from the stations to the schools against a comprehensive ticket priced at a rate much lower than the bus charges currently charged by schools.
Special metro services during school hours catering only to students would be a relief for students and parents. This concept must be fleshed out with the help of experts, school authorities and parents.