Three months after Shrikar Pardeshi was given over the additional charge of the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) with the objective of steering it out of the abyss that it was sinking in, the city’s transport undertaking that ferries 11 lakh commuters is witnessing a change in its fortunes, but the change is not exactly to the liking of its commuters.
Commuter organisations, who had high expectations from Pardeshi, feel let down, especially as breakdown of buses has not come down to the level that they expected and the “steep fare hike” resorted to by the PMPML in December has also not come down.
While Pardeshi argues that breakdowns have reduced, earnings have gone up and more buses are now on roads than three months back, commuter organisations like the PMP Pravasi Manch say “that is just not enough and much more is needed to be done to make the transport undertaking commuter-friendly.”
Jugal Rathi, who heads the PMP Pravasi Manch, said the biggest blow that commuters suffered was related to rates of daily passes. “The daily rate of pass was hiked despite the Regional Transport Authority denying permission to do so. If the daily rate of pass is reduced to Rs 50 from Rs 70, it will be a big relief for commuters,” says Rathi.
Another irritant for commuters is the fares for second stage–a travel preferred by maximum number of commuters. “Up to the second stage of 10 km, the fares of PMPML were Rs 10 till December. For the first three stages it was Rs 5. This means, Rs 5 was in use only for the first stage whereas for the second stage the fare was Rs 10. This was highly convenient for commuters as large number of travel between 6 to 10 km. There are very few who travel from first stop to the last,” he said.
What has happened because of Rs 15 fare, Rathi said was that everyday the commuters and conductors battled over change. “The conductors do not have loose change to return and neither the commuters carry change. Therefore, the second stage travel, which is popular, has become a headache for daily commuters,” said Rathi.
Commuters rued that on several occasions, they forgot to collect the balance Rs 5, which went to the PMPML coffers. Conductors, on the other hand, said they too were helpless as PMPML did not provide them loose change.
Rathi added that if the PMPML was not interested in reducing the entire fares, it should at least reduce these fares. “Actually, PMPML is in position to reduce the fares since it claims that it’s earnings have gone up and the diesel prices have also come down,” he said.
PMPML, however, said that at present it wasn’t in a position to lower the fares as it was staring at a huge outstanding of Rs 89 crore. “We are awaiting Rs 45-crore financial assistance from the PMC and PCMC. This will reduce our outstanding bill. However, we still need Rs 45 crore to pay off our debts,” Pardeshi said. Though diesel prices have been reduced, he said, PMPML ran 60 per cent of its buses on CNG whose prices had not reduced in the past few months. “Therefore, it is not possible to reduce the fares,” he said. Pardeshi pointed out that he had managed to bring 250 more buses on roads every day. “When I joined the PMPML, only 1,250 buses used to ply on city roads. Now, over 1,500 buses are on road daily. We are working overtime to reduce the number of breakdowns. Soon, around 100 buses will be on roads. These buses had some engine-related work and are being repaired on an urgent basis,” he said.
Commuters pointed out that windows of several buses were jammed. Besides, drivers refused to stop buses even if commuters waved frantically. On the Pune-Mumbai highway, commuters said the buses jumped on speed-breakers so dangerously that it could claim the life commuters. “People, especially women, avoid sitting on the last seats of the PMPML buses. The buses jump nastily when the rear wheel lands on speed-breakers. Either the drivers have not been trained properly or the PMPML should ask civic bodies to reduce the height of speed-breakers before it is too late,” said Rajendra Verma, a civic activist.