Pune: Praveensinh Pardeshi, additional chief secretary for urban development, has advocated for complete removal of taxation on public buses and providing for financial gaps from local sources like local development premiums. “A city bus service runs only when it pays for fuel and its workers,” said Pardeshi and brought the focus on championing innovative ways to reduce the operating costs of buses.
Pardeshi was speaking at the state-level webinar organised by Parisar, a Pune-based NGO as part of the Lakhala 50 (Lakh ko Pachaas) campaign, which is part of a nationwide campaign to demand that both the National and State Governments launch a comprehensive program to ensure that cities are assured a good bus-based public transport system. The issues of different commuters, as expressed during these dialogues, was presented to the panellists and special guest Pardeshi in a video. The campaign has been launched by the Sustainable Urban Mobility Network (SUM Net), a coalition of individuals, voluntary organisations, and civil society networks and movements promoting sustainable urban transport solutions across India.
SUM Net member Pranjali Deshpande said, “Maharashtra has only 11 buses per lakh people. To ensure that people go back to work safely maintaining physical distancing norms, Maharashtra needs 22,000 buses.”
Emphasising the latent demand of public transport in small cities with less than 2 million population, Dr Geetam Tiwari talked about the need for smaller buses and their integration with intermediate public transport (auto rickshaws etc.) and a robust non-motorised system for smaller cities like Nashik and Amravati. She claimed that this could help achieve a modal share of more than 20 per cent.
Focusing on the urban governance system and the role of autonomous local government, author and city planner Sulakshana Mahajan talked about the need for dedicated bus lanes and holistic development of the bus ecosystem which includes footpaths, safe crossings and access, etc.
Presenting the operators’ point of view, Prasanna Patwardhan, President of Bus and car Operators Confederation of India (BOCI) underscored the importance of aggressive funding for bus systems just like other big infrastructure projects.