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HOURS after Naina Gunde took charge as the chairman and managing director of Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML), a fire broke out in a CNG-operated bus of the public transport body, marking the eighth fire incident involving a PMPML bus in the last three months. The incident took place on the Pune-Mumbai Highway in Pimpri, in front of the headquarters of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, around 3.30 pm.
The passengers managed to get out safely, said PMPML spokesperson Subhash Gaikwad. “All of them deboarded safely… a short-circuit is suspected to be the reason behind the fire,” he said.
The transport body has appointed a committee to ascertain o the reason behind the fire, said PMPML Chief Engineer Shivaji Jadhav. “… Once the committee submits its report, we will make it public…,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gunde, who takes charge of PMPML after the controversial tenure of Tukaram Mundhe, said she will take “commuter-friendly” decisions. “Though I have no background in handling transport issues, I will try to first understand the way PMPML functions and take decisions which are commuter-friendly,” she said.
Gunde, an IAS officer, was earlier the Zilla Parishad CEO in Wardha and has also served as additional municipal commissioner in Nagpur.
On concerns raised by commuter organisations about changes introduced by Mundhe, such as increasing the pass rates for senior citizens and scrapping crucial routes, Gunde said she will study the problems faced by commuters and take appropriate decisions.
Accusing Mundhe of taking all anti-commuter steps, Jugal Rathi of PMPML Pravasi Manch said, “… We want justice for seniors from the new PMPML chief… Mundhe had scrapped key bus routes in the heart of the city… and even pass centres were shut down…”.
Another key demand of commuters was reducing the ticket fare to Rs 5 for a distance of 5 km, said Rathi. “If the new chief is able to implement this move, the number of PMPML commuters would go up by 2 lakh in six months. As of now, PMPML is charging Rs 10 or Rs 15 for 2 km,” he said.
Rathi alleged that fewer commuters were taking PMPML buses because of these changes. “Two-wheelers have become the preferred mode of transport… because taking a two-wheeler has become cheaper than taking buses. The PMPML chief needs to make buses affordable to attract youths who are risking their lives by riding two-wheelers,” he said.