KMTA’s fate hangs in the balance

The situation turned worse early this year when its sole employees quit their posts, citing how they were left with little to do in the absence of an administrative system

Updated - June 17, 2023 09:53 pm IST

Published - June 17, 2023 09:52 pm IST - KOCHI

The closed Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority office at Revenue Tower in Kochi on Saturday.

The closed Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority office at Revenue Tower in Kochi on Saturday. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

The Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority (KMTA), the first such body in India having legislative backing, has become next to defunct, around three years since its commissioning in November 2020.

The authority that was launched with the assurance of revolutionising and seamlessly integrating public transport systems in Kochi, by acting as an umbrella body of stakeholders in the civic and enforcement agencies concerned, was in hibernation mode during the past year. The situation turned worse early this year when two technical experts (who were the sole employees) quit their posts, citing how they were left with little to do, in the absence of an administrative system.

This has resulted in its managing director, an IAS officer, left with none to support him and to implement decisions taken at its director board meetings.

Informed sources said that KMTA would continue to fail in its objectives if the body is controlled by officials from Thiruvananthapuram, who have little idea of the dire need to improve the public transport system in Kochi, and problems such as haphazard parking and encroachments. “The result is there to see – uncertainty prevails on permitting the city entry of private buses from the Goshree islands and also about the second phase development of the Vyttila Mobility Hub. These initiatives would have tremendously boosted the prospects of buses, metro, and other modes of commute,” they added.

Proposals to streamline parking through an app-based system and to rationalise bus routes too remain on paper. All this has resulted in the vast office space in Revenue Tower that was availed on monthly rent of ₹80,000, remaining unutilised.

“Proposals sent to the State government seeking appointment of experts on permanent or even contract basis, fell on deaf ears. Furthermore, KMTA was plagued by ‘conflict of interest’, as a couple of top officials in the government’s public transport stream held key posts in the body. The saddest part is that even people’s representatives from the Opposition have failed to highlight the ineffectiveness of the body,” the sources said.

D. Dhanuraj, chairman of Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR), a city-based think tank that was involved in many public transport initiatives in Kochi and in several States across India, said transport stakeholders from many cities in other States had been enquiring about the dismal condition that KMTA finds itself in. “The authority ought to have helped ready the revised comprehensive mobility plan for Kochi. Its plight is in stark contrast to how innumerable other citiesin the country are making rapid strides in public transport, thanks to effective and swift decision making with the help of experts. KMTA even failed to respond to offers from many organisations to extend their services free of cost,” he said.

A member of KMTA’s director board and architect of National Urban Transport Policy, O.P. Agarwal, spoke of how KMTA would have been effective if emphasis had been given to prove its mettle right from the onset, rather than wait for manpower. “It ought to have made better use of the services of personnel from other departments. Hope is not lost even now since agencies such as Transport for London took many decades to get their act together,” he said.

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