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Auto strike brings out best in bus service

Five days into the ongoing auto-rickshaw strike,Puneites are witnessing a hitherto unseen side of the civic transport body Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mandal Limited.

Written by Ranjani Raghavan | Pune |
May 6, 2009 3:33:08 am

The flip side OF Strike : Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mandal Limited works

Five days into the ongoing auto-rickshaw strike,Puneites are witnessing a hitherto unseen side of the civic transport body Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mandal Limited (PMPML). The utility,unlike in normal times,has started functioning round-the-clock and started reaching the nooks and crannies of the city,which was unheard of till now.

The utility has been able to go for a complete image makeover with 80 buses from its own fleet being pushed into service during the auto strike,over and above the regular 1,150 buses on road,and a number of staff working extra hard.

Going by PMPML’s explanation of what needs to be done to get the utility to keep giving the kind of service that one has seen in the last five days,it is not much. At Rs 20 lakh to Rs 25 lakh a bus,these 80 buses cost Rs 16-20 crore.

Of course,it also needs a change in the laidback work culture of its staff.

The PMPML is now running 1,258 buses on the city roads. Of late,PMPML had been talking about how its service will improve dramatically once it gets its full quota of buses. The utility’s CMD Nitin Khade said they were expecting 890 new buses by September,which will include hired ones that will start arriving by August.

Now,the PMPML staff is working on a war footing,most of them putting in extra hours after regular duty time. “At present,leaves and weekly offs of PMPML staff have been cancelled; officers are expected to work through their breaks,” said Khade.

The bus utility has been doing the maintenance work at night,so that maximum buses are on road during daytime in the the last few days.  

“Often there are minor problems like a broken headlight because of which buses are off road. On regular days,the maintenance happens during the day,but for the strike period we are making an exception so that we can use maximum buses,” said a depot manager.  

The depots at Nigdi,Bhosari and Pimpri — from the strike-free Pimpri-Chinchwad— are each sending an additional 5-6 buses to Pune. Overtime is compulsory. All buses that would retire to their stations by 9 pm are being made to ply till midnight. Most PMPML staff is on the road,posted at bus stops to direct the crowds towards the buses.  An additional 300 hands have become available to PMPML with this move,which is allowing it to keep these buses running.  

Officers say they will not be able to sustain the pressure once the strike ends. “We need more people,” said PMPML spokesperson D A Pardeshi. “The attitude should also be different. At present,we are on a war footing,” he said.

Each PMPML driver has been asked to do a minimum of one extra trip after duty hours. The staff has been told to take pending leaves once the strike is over. Now PMPML says that if the strike continues,it will introduce short trips,to tap into commuters who have till now preferred autorickshaws.

For the people of Pune who have been deprived of a viable public transport system by PMPML (and its earlier avatars,PMT and PCMT) all these years on one pretext or the other,this seems to a dream run by the utility.

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