Anil Kumar Sastry
Poor public transport will fuel proliferation of private vehicles Poor public transport will fuel proliferation of private vehicles and congestion
Only road works will be taken up under JNNURM State undertakings have sought funds for upgrading fleet
BANGALORE: Imagine a situation where we have an excellent road network in the city, yet unsafe and rickety buses.
Roads are soon to be refurbished under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), but the mission does not support modernising the fleet of cash-strapped road transport undertakings controlled by State Governments.
Several States have urged the Centre to consider funding State Transport Undertakings (STUs) to upgrade their fleet with state-of-the-art and environment-friendly buses. They have said that there can be no urban renewal without efficient and affordable public transport system in cities.
Good roads funded under JNNURM without adequate public transport will fuel the growth of private transport vehicles, overcrowding city roads even further.
This, the STUs say, will eventually become unsustainable and defeat JNNURM's objective of providing basic services to the urban poor. The Association of State Road Transport Undertakings, which has 58 STU members, too has taken up the issue with the Centre.
The Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, is its president. The head of one of the members is its vice-president. Upendra Tripathy, Managing Director of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation is holding the position now.
The STUs have urged the Centre and the States to abolish taxes on purchase of new vehicles, fuel and lubricants.
For Indian-made buses, STUs paid 16.5 per cent Central Excise and 12.5 per cent VAT.
They also collected tax from passengers on the tickets and pay to the State Governments. STUs in Karnataka paid five per cent of their total earnings towards passenger tax, he said.
While the Centre had slashed excise duty on small cars and exempted domestic airlines from paying income tax (on lease payments), the common man's vehicle was heavily taxed. A person opting for public transport was taxed whereas those using private vehicles were not, he said.
People could be attracted to public transport only if STUs deployed state-of-the-art buses, he said.
STUs had reported losses of over Rs. 2,600 crore during 2005-06.
This was not only owing to subsidised transportation and non-revision of fares for populist measures but also because of the high incidence of taxation, Mr. Tripathy said.
Unless public transport was made attractive and affordable, it was impossible to decongest city roads and reduce environment pollution, Mr. Tripathy said added.