At a time when most people are reeling under rising fuel prices, and the need for mobility has never been greater, the revised full budget presented by the AIADMK Government in Tamil Nadu today offers little cheer to commuters.
The Budget Speech from Finance Minister O.Paneerselvam devotes only two paragraphs to this all-important subject and in practical terms, offers even less. The only two things that the policy roadmap talks about are an addition of 3,000 buses with a capital investment of Rs.125 crores and a plan to turn bus terminals into multi-level commercial centres through Private Public Partnerships to improve revenue for transport corporations.
These are not even the low-hanging fruit for transport development in Tamil Nadu. Moreover, 3,000 buses even just for Chennai would not bring it on par with neighbouring Bangalore, which has over 6,000. And what has been announced is for the entire State of Tamil Nadu.
What the urban commuter and long distance passenger looked forward to is an announcement on integrated transport for urban centres, policy framing for feeder modes, better regulation that will bring about passenger-oriented mobility, and induction of modern technologies in ticketing, transit information and so on. The failure to even mention existing efforts such as the constitution of a Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority in the speech (which would have been in order since Tamil Nadu has continuing commitments under JNNURM financing), is an indication of a lack of significant vision in the AIADMK government for this key sector.
The CUMTA in Chennai would be vitally important, if the present government is to make different parts of the under-construction network – Metro Rail, MRTS extension – and the legacy modes – MTC, suburban rail, existing MRTS line, buses, autorickshaws and mushrooming unregulated Tata Magic vans – all work in sync. Moreover, a mono rail is also on the cards.
We can only hope that this glaring lacuna is filled at least in the future, through ongoing policy formulation. Nothing else can stop the crisis of mobility that is burning holes in people’s pockets, and turning cities into congested, dangerous and unlivable hellholes.