The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has already spent Rs 900 crore that it had received for implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) for BRTS Phase I and BRTS-CYG. The amount spent is staggering, but the key question is, “After spending crores, buses are being run on how many kilometres of BRTS route?” The answer, PMPML officials say is “zero km”. However, the PMC had promised BRTS on a 120 km stretch.
Puneites have so far seen BRTS implementation in the form of the pilot BRTS project from Katraj to Hadapsar. The pilot project was tried out for a few months, but it was wound up before commuters could get a proper feel of it. “In fact, it was not a BRTS at all. It was a separate bus lane that too from Katraj to Swargate. And from Swargate to Hadapsar, there was not even a separate lane. Therefore, there has been no BRTS at all in Pune,” says Prashant Inamdar, convenor of Pedestrians First.
With BRTS not running even on 1 km, another key question that emerges is, “Where did the funds (Rs 900 crore) go ?” PMC additional city engineer Vivek Kharwadkar provides the answer which civic activists find hard to believe — “The amount was used for widening roads, concretisation and building facilities like the subways. All these were done on the routes where BRTS will operate. Also, we have used the funds for setting up other facilities on these routes.”
“This shows,” says Qaneez Sukhrani of Nagrik Chetna Manch, “PMC has used up the funds at its whim when it should have used the funds only for setting up dedicated BRTS corridors, bus stations and providing other facilities.” Major Gen (retd) S C N Jatar says PMC has actually committed gross illegality by using funds meant for BRTS to fund its road improvement programme. “The central government had specifically sanctioned Rs 11,00 crore for BRTS. And as per my information, the entire amount has been received by the PMC,” he says. Inamdar says the central government has sent a notice to PMC regarding the use of BRTS funds.
PMC executive engineer (JNNURM) VIjay Shinde, however, says there has been no illegality and they have not received any notice from the central government. “We had received funds for BRTS phase I — Rs 434 crore and for Rs 474 crore for BRTS-CYG. We have used up all the funds. These funds have been used for widening roads and building other facilities. Without widening roads and setting up facilities, how do you implement BRTS?” he asks.
“What is shocking — it took more than one year for PMC to sanction around Rs 11 crore for installing Intelligent Transport Management System without which BRTS cannot be started,” said Sukhrani. “The funds for ITMS should have been approved by PMC standing committee six months ago. But they only released it last week after we wrote to the Chief Minister asking suo motu dissolution of PMC’s civic panel under Article 243U of the Constitution.”
Puneites are most disturbed by the fact that despite “splurging” crores on so-called “setting up of infrastructure on BRTS, the routes remain in pathetic state”. “Miscreant, vandals, beggars all are having a go at the unused bus shelters,” says Sukhrani.
Inamdar says the last update they received from PMC on BRTS routes showed the civic body’s intention to implement it on a number of routes like Vishwrantwadi-Wagholi, Warje-Kharadi, Dhyari-Hadapsar and KothrudVishrwantwadi and Kothrud-Kalewadi Phata. “The PMC seems to be planning to implement BRTS on a 120 km route. But so far, it has not been able to get it going even on one km,” says Inamdar.
Shinde says Vishrantwadi-Wagholi route is almost complete except for a small stretch. “Once the ITMS is installed, we hope this will be the first route to be rolled out. After successful launch of this route, we will in no time replicate it on other routes,” Shinde said.
PMC says the central government has given an extension till March 2015 to start the BRTS. “The delay in starting BRTS is due to a number of factors including position of the bus stops with respect to bus doors. It was later decided to implement the Ahmedabad pattern which has been successfully done,” said Shinde.