Archive for October, 2012

I have used a PMPML (or PMT as it was known earlier) once or twice since 1986. That was because I bought a two-wheeler and decided I didn’t wish to wait for a bus since my work timings were odd. I went to work when most people were coming back home and returned when people were fast asleep.

Then in 2003, I bought a car and my forays into a public transport bus were reduced even further. When I returned to Pune in 2005, I saw the rattle-traps that were being passed off as buses and decided I wouldn’t ever step into one again. I know lakhs of Puneites took those buses every day, but that was because they didn’t have an option. Well I did and I was going to exercise that option.

Here’s where I always wondered why people never objected to the manner in which the civic body forced people to accept what they got. There were new buses being inducted, but the city’s population was rising at four times the speed, and the PMT now PMPML just didn’t have the wherewithal to cope.

Today, Pune has just over five million people compared to Mumbai’s 20 million plus. Yet Pune has more vehicles per household than Mumbai. There were 23.13 lakh vehicles registered in Pune till October this year, of which 17.07 lakh were two-wheelers and 3.33 lakh were private cars. Yet, one-fifth of the five million citizens of Pune, use the approximately 1500 buses run by the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd or PMPML, everyday. The PMPML is, as of now, at least 1500 buses short of what it required to ferry passengers around the city.

It’s not like I am some fat cat who can afford to drive around 40-50 kms and burn around 300 bucks of fuel, every day. Only I know how much it pinches our monthly budget to end up over 8000 bucks in the red every month, to use my four-wheeler. I have often wondered, why there couldn’t be a better quality of buses, which were more point to point and with a higher frequency from wherever I stayed. Citizens in Bangalore, Delhi and elsewhere have the option, so why not those in Pune? If given a clean and comfortable option, more than half of the remaining four million, like me, would happily step into a PMPML bus, instead of using our own vehicles.

So when Sakal Times decided to highlight this issue and called for a Pune Bus Day on November 1, I don’t think anyone at our office expected the kind of response it received. At the risk of sounding cliched, the response was overwhelming. And unlike what the cynics are sneering about, NO political party is behind this, especially not the ‘Rashtrawadi’ ones, which is what some people are hinting at. Frankly, we aren’t a big enough newspaper for a political party latch on to us. Yes, political parties have realised the huge impact the movement is having and have now joined in. As a media vehicle we can’t tell them to lay off because one, they help to get the message across to their supporters and two, they will be the decision makers who will play a role n the city’s future.

You can sneer, snipe and jeer at the idea, that’s your prerogative. As a media, which is invariably, called cynical, it would have been natural for us to react the way you did. But the fact that lakhs of people from across the city have joined us, should tell you something. They can’t ALL be stupid – or cynical. They also know that things will not change in a day. But they are willing to make the effort. We are not saying that things will change dramatically in a day. It can’t and won’t. But isn’t it time, as citizens, we did something?

Look around you and tell me what you see. Power cuts, shutdowns, breakdowns, terrible roads, water shortages in one housing society after another; no water in some because builders have fleeced residents with promises they haven’t delivered on. And then where it hits us hardest, a public bus transport system, which is the lifeline of this city, that is unable to cope with the burgeoning passenger traffic. Let’s work to change it.

So, all we are asking citizens to do is travel by a bus on November 1, to send a message across to the city and state administration that Pune doesn’t want to become another dying city, which is where we are headed if we don’t do something. And, it doesn’t end on November 1. We intend to keep the pressure on the civic body to bring about the desired changes in not just the bus service, but about a whole lot of other issues plaguing the city.