Fund crunch keeps UMTA grounded

V. Geetanath
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It has been four years since the Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA) was formed, with Hyderabad being the first city to go for a coordinated approach to improve traffic and public transport infrastructure.

While the forum headed by the Chief Secretary saw some projects, including a modern traffic signalling system and a comprehensive transport study, taking off, one crucial step has been missing.

The formation of an Urban Transport Development Fund (UTDF) to speedily take up projects has been hanging fire though the matter is highlighted in most meetings.

The National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) has mooted levying direct taxes to meet the urban transportation needs, whether it is roads, flyovers, junctions, traffic signals, signages, railways, metro, MMTS, or pedestrian facilities.

While the Chief Minister did not accept a proposal to surcharge a levy on fuel towards transport infrastructure development as was done in Bangalore, he did agree to release 10 per cent of the motor vehicle tax being collected in the GHMC area. “The decision was taken two years ago, yet not a single paisa has come to the fund despite the issue being brought to the notice of the higher-ups. Even the GHMC is given a paltry Rs. 50 lakh per annum when the tax collected last year was more than Rs. 700 crore in the capital region,” say senior officials, wishing to remain anonymous.

Considering the pressure on departments like the HMDA, APSRTC, Police and the GHMC to undertake their own works rather than transfer a small per cent of their money to the fund, it was also decided at the Chief Minister’s meeting to transfer fine collected by the traffic police to the UTDF.

It amounted to more than Rs. 108 crore in the last three years, but nothing came to the UTDF. “We could have easily grounded many projects by now as the fund would have had a sizeable amount,” they point out.

With no fund and the UMTA meeting too not being held every month, no concrete decisions are being taken. “Only when a multi-departmental agency like the UMTA decides, joint coordinated projects can be taken up resisting local pressures like the Necklace Road flyover, for example,” they say.

Hyderabad was the first city to go for a coordinated approach to improve traffic and public transport infrastructure



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