ANDHRA PRADESH

Pre-paid parking: a concept wrapped in confusion

HYDERABAD DEC. 24. Almost a year after the Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad's annual pre-paid parking plan was launched amid fanfare to address parking problems in the twin cities, the scheme has fallen flat on its face.

With the MCH failing miserably to make commercial complexes, cinema houses and even government offices fall in line and honour its parking tickets, vehicle owners continue to be fleeced by parking mafia during their visits to these places. The fleecing continues right under the noses of the MCH babus.

Despite being priced at Rs. 100 for two-wheelers and Rs. 200 for four-wheelers, the tickets did not find many takers with vehicle owners realising the limited purpose they served. According to officials of eSeva, through whose centres the tickets were sold, only 84,440 vehicle owners, against a total of nearly 16 lakh vehicles on the city roads, chose to buy them.

With utter confusion surrounding the concept, those who presumed the ticket to be a panacea to all their parking problems ended up in heated arguments with supervisors of parking lots at most commercial complexes, venues of exhibitions and film theatres. Things went worse for them with the ticket not being accepted even on the premises of government departments!

A visit to the MCH website `ourmch.com' reveals the disgruntlement of those who went by the corporation's assurance and bought the tickets. Several postings refer to the parking tickets not being accepted at different places from banks to hospitals to public parks. If one expressed his embarrassment at having to pay for parking at most places despite the card, another felt `decently fooled by the MCH'. Yet another pointed out that the corporation had forgotten all about its pet project and `somebody needs to file a case against MCH under Sec. 420 for cheating the public'.

Admitting the glitches in implementation of the concept, the MCH officials said they were working on making the ticket honoured at more places. "We are talking to other government departments on the subject apart from identifying more locations to provide vehicle parking," said an official. Presently, the corporation has 107 identified locations in the city providing free parking to the pre-paid ticket holder, but most of these are MCH parking lots on main roads.

The officials also claim to be working towards making free parking a criterion for according building permission to new complexes. But what about the existing commercial complexes ? "It's a bit tough enforcing it in these places," an official conceded, adding hastily, "we are also addressing the issue". Such is the situation that hapless vehicle users are confronted by parking lot managers claiming to have `court orders' leaving the common man with no go but pay the demanded money.

The MCH additional commissioner, Vijay Kumar, said they had written to the State Government on the issue and were in the process of providing `better and attractive packages for pre-paid parking ticket holders.'

Incidentally, though the annual tickets lapse in another week, the civic body has not yet got into the business of preparing the renewal tickets and new ones for the year 2004. "That will not take much time. We will be able to get them printed in one or two days' time," said Mr.Vijay Kumar.

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