Flouting rules with aplomb and creating traffic chaos, the ‘Gramin Sewa’ transport service is still the best bet for Delhiites without access to adequate bus service

Wonders will never cease, not in the National Capital Region of Delhi. Before the hapless citizenry had recovered from the blue-lined murderers, they were presented with another menace. This time it came in a pocket-sized edition. The only difference between the blue-line demons and this little pest is its puny size, but what it loses in size, it more than compensates through to its sheer numbers. In fact, the nuisance value of this alleged public utility is roughly of the same order as its illustrious predecessor.

Instead of carrying 80 or hundred people at one time and hurtling down at breakneck speed — crushing out of existence everything in its sight, especially pedestrians and cyclists -- the new version that has been foisted on the city comes in the shape of an environment-friendly service, purportedly designed to connect the far-flung rural areas, slums, regularized irregular colonies and unauthorized irregular colonies to the mainstream of the city.

The salient features of the public notice that was issued by the Taxi Unit, Burari, Transport Department of Government of NCT of Delhi in connection with the launch of the service stated inter alia: The vehicle registered as ‘Gramin Sewa’ will be allowed to ply only in rural areas, unauthorised resettlement colonies and J.J. clusters.

A few thousand of these vehicles are on the roads now and according to data released by the traffic police, quoted in this paper on April 13, 2011, prosecution proceedings for causing chaos on the roads were initiated by the Delhi Traffic Police against more than 2,900 of these vehicles in one month (March 2011) alone. There are apparently more than 5,000 such vehicles on the major arterial roads in Delhi, concentrated in areas like Luxminagar, Mother Dairy, Munirka, Tilak Nagar, Uttam Nagar, Vikas Puri, Kingsway Camp, Nathupura, Burari, Moti Nagar, Nangloi, Bhajanpura, Loni, Madhuban Chowk, Shahdara, Yamuna Vihar and other parts of Delhi, excluding the VIP district and the small part of Delhi enclosed by the Ring Road.

The much publicized low floor public transport buses do not adequately service the areas where the bulk of the city population resides. In any case, with fewer ordinary and more air-conditioned buses being pushed on the roads by Delhi Transport Corporation, the daily cost of commuting has been surreptitiously raised for the commuters and they are compelled to use this so-called Gramin Sewa.

The rural areas of Delhi continue to suffer from bad connectivity and in the absence of the much-promised Metro Feeder Service, the vehicles charged with the task of connecting the villages to the major arteries fill in the void.

Meanwhile, if the lawbreaking Gramin Sewa drivers are to be believed, the absence of any enforcement of the law helps both parties with the law enforcers line their pockets merrily and looking at the precariously overcrowded vehicles business, it does not seem to be going too badly for the owners of these little green-line vehicles either.

Thousands of these vehicles flout the very conditions under which they were given the permit to ply on Delhi roads and yet one sees no sign either of the scheme being rescinded because of its impracticality or being modified to suit the requirements of the commuting public.

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