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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2554

No bus to distant neighbour

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Forget India’s boundary dispute with China and Pakistan or the absence of a transit treaty with Bangladesh or, for that matter, any other dispute with our sovereign neighbours. India, it appears, is unable to contain eruption of frequent bickering between states within the country over relatively smaller issues. Inter-state sharing river waters and redrawing of boundaries on the basis of language spoken on border territories are serious internal maters that defy solution. Even a matter like the plying of bus spirals out of hand and leads to an inter-state warfare that achieves little except harassing the public.

When a bus dispute arises in and around Delhi, it also exposes the extreme callousness of successive governments in promoting the so-called national capital region that was supposed to relieve the national capital of much of the burden of catering to a burgeoning population.

Not fore the first time, state-run buses between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh suddenly stopped plying on midnight Friday, November 16 when UP impounded 123 buses of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Passengers coming to Delhi from neighbouring UP towns were left stranded near the border and they had to trudge a couple of kilometres before they could board a DTC bus. Next day, Saturday, it was the turn of daily commuters and school children to be taken by an unpleasant surprise when the Delhi government, in retaliation, decided to withdraw the DTC services to Noida, an extended eastern suburb of Delhi that happens to be part of UP.

It was a small mercy that all road communication between Delhi and its eastern suburbs in UP and beyond into that state had not come to a standstill. Commuters between Delhi and Noida were left totally at the mercy of private buses, mostly the notorious killer Blue line buses. Despite the mighty inconvenience, not to speak of anxiety and tension that the disruption in bus services had caused there was little or no expression of regrets by authorities as though it was an everyday affair that people had learnt to take in their stride.

Perhaps they have, or else the dispute over plying of buses between Delhi and its neighbouring states, UP (and Haryana) would not have lingered for decades. Take the November 16 incident. Incredible as it may sound; a ‘bus dispute’ has dogged the governments of the national capital and UP for at least 30 years. Noida was one of the many satellite towns in UP (and Haryana) that were developed as part of the national capital region that extends to a radius of about 100 km around Delhi. These satellite towns were to be well integrated with Delhi, an essential component of which is surely a good and reliable transport service. Indeed, a good and smooth road system.

When Noida was being developed, Delhi was asked to help by providing a bus service and the DTC, by no means one of the best transport service operators in the country, duly obliged. Needless to say, the service was nothing more than a token; but it was there.

But Noida is a ‘foreign’ territory, not part of Delhi. So the governments of Delhi and UP had to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to run the bus services, which they did in 1985. It was valid for a period of 15 years. The MoU was not specific to Noida and applied to plying of buses between Delhi and the state of UP and that might have been at the base of the problem.

The MoU expired six years back. It was extended for two years as both governments had failed to work out long term solution to their differences. It has been adhocism since then.

The differences are rather fundamental. The point of contention is whether the buses should ply on the basis of the number of trips into the other territory or the distance (kilometres) travelled by the buses. The real problem is that neither of these two grounds assures equal remuneration to both the governments. If the kilometre system is accepted it would give advantage to the buses of the state that cover the most distance; the number of trips criterion would shrink the revenues of the state buses that have to travel long distances.

Perhaps the dispute over distance or number of trips would not have arisen had the MoU been specifically confined to running of bus services between Delhi and Noida. After all the terms and conditions for plying buses between Delhi and Noida need not apply to buses that travel from Delhi to, say, Aligarh or Haridwar, which are not so close to Delhi. The volume of daily commuters between Delhi and Aligarh, for instance, is not comparable to the traffic between Delhi and Noida. That much was apparent 30 years ago too.

Let us look at the Delhi-Noida problem from a wider perspective. If the Sheila Dixit government (of Delhi) as also the central government that basically controls the destiny of Delhi are or were really keen and sincere in developing satellite towns why have they failed to provide an integrated, a good and reliable transport system between Delhi and its satellite towns? Things like MoUs are not the concern of the people who have to travel either daily or frequently between two neighbouring towns spread across two states.

It is rather intriguing that Delhi autos can take you to Noida but Noida itself does not have autos. Despite all the boorish ways of their drivers, autos remain a comparatively cheaper mode of transport in a large urban centre.

But come to think of it. It is even more odd that while it is possible to hire an auto for Noida at a railway station in Delhi, no auto is allowed to cross into the Haryana suburbs of Delhi, Gurgaon included. Because no MoU was signed?

Travelling in a public transport or the auto is not a pleasant experience in Delhi, but it has to be endured out of necessity. The governments of Delhi (which levies an entry tax on vehicles) and the states of UP and Haryana care a fig about the problems of commuters. All they want is people to come in hordes and settle in their territories to bring them all the money by way of taxes or whatever. That is why the very concept of NCR looks flawed more than 30 years after it was floated. The NCR is for developers and colonisers, not for the ordinary people who are unfortunate enough to settle there.

- Syndicate Features -

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