Chennai’s Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has announced cosmetic changes to its operations, when so much more was expected from it to improve the efficiency and reliability of its monopoly bus service.
The comments made by managing director Ramasubramaniam bring home the reality that the corporation is cynical and cold towards passenger demands. It did not help that the meek media participation in the press conference failed to draw out the official into discussing the pressing problems of travellers.
The Hindu reports that MTC is to try out announcements on some of its services, telling passengers about stops in advance. This is a useful service, but means little in the absence of a facility to request for a stop at the passenger end. This standard feature used to exist in the past, when the same MTC used to operate only ordinary buses. A small bell could be tapped at the front and rear, near the door, to alert the conductor. The bells have disappeared in recent years, simultaneously with indifference and arrogance on display from the bus crew towards legitimate passenger demands (drivers skip stops often, and conductors bully and abuse passengers) in all buses. Now, with deluxe services in operation, passengers are paying more to be bullied and taunted.
But even more fundamental is the need for the MTC to introduce more services, together with a campaign to popularise the daily, weekly and monthly travel passes (travel cards). At present, the MTC does not issue these passes widely, and restricts them to a few depots, that too during the first half of the month, and again, during specified hours of the day. All this constitutes a major disincentive for passengers to use the bus system. It also does not help reduce congestion on the roads, which is growing worse by the day.
Considering that the Metro rail plan for Chennai is making very slow progress, one would expect the Tamil Nadu Government to augment the bus service, particularly within the core area of the city.
We demand that the Manmohan Singh Government refuse all assistance to the MTC under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) until the State, and its monopoly, the MTC, come forward to remove the bottlenecks and anti-passenger functioning of the bus network.
We also regret that the UPA government has done little to augment the MRTS service in Chennai, although its popularity and the demand for more services is no longer in doubt.