Chennai’s popular ‘share autos’ operating illegally: Transport Dept to RTI query

Share autos, or 7-seater mini vans operating in the hundreds in Chennai are illegal, and cannot pick up and drop passengers at random, the Tamil Nadu Transport Department said in reply to an RTI query that I filed in March, 2017. The RTI application was filed to the Secretary, Transport, Tamil Nadu, who forwarded it to the Transport Commissioner, who in turn sent it to RTOs.

The response of the department exposes the lack of a regulated scheme for shared transport in Tamil Nadu, although such services have been operational for a few years now and are highly popular with commuters, especially women. Even the Chennai Metro Rail acknowledges the popularity of these services as feeders from some of its stations. The share autos also provide night transport till almost 2 a.m., which the State government has failed to.

The monopoly bus operator in Chennai, the MTC, has responded grudgingly to the need for small-format transport and introduced a couple of hundred 24 seater mini-buses (besides at least 12 standing passengers) which are also well-patronised. However, for apparently political reasons [not wanting to upset autorickshaw interests], the MTC has not expanded the scheme of mini-buses in a targeted fashion, connecting railway and Metro stations, residential areas and bus termini.

On the RTI query, when asked whether 7-seater or 6-seater vehicles could operate under any law in the city of Chennai and the neighbouring districts of Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram as ‘share autos’, taking passengers from the roadside for drop at random, the Regional Transport Office, Chennai (North West), Chennai 600102 said “No” in its response dated April 3.

So what action is being taken by the Transport Department to regulate the operation of such ‘share autos’ – currently seen operating from areas like Mylapore, Thiruvanmiyur, Nesappakkam, Porur, Chennai Central, T.Nagar, Anna Nagar and Mogappair?

“The Motor Vehicles Inspectors are conducting regular checks on these vehicles and booking for offences committed,” the RTI reply said.

Shared transport in Chennai
A 7-seater share auto in Chennai. Usually, these vehicles carry a minimum of 9 people, and at night, up to 13, charging between Rs.7 and Rs.30 per head for a 1 km -10 km ride.

The RTO (North West) also provided figures of how many 7-seater and 6-seater vehicles were given taxi permit for operation in the city of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram, within its jurisdiction.

The details of the taxi permits are as follows:

2011 12 3
2012 05 01
2013 01
2014 05
2015 03 21
2016 02

Data from Regional Transport Officer (North West), Chennai, 600102

The RTO did not respond to questions on whether the Transport Department had any rules in existence or proposed any to enable the operation of shared passenger vehicles, using commercial transport apps for smartphones and on the internet, such as Ola Share and Uberpool. “This office is only a Regional office. Hence the question not related to this office,” the reply stated.

A similar response was given to a question on whether the Transport Department was taking steps to incorporate the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways report on Guidelines for Taxi Cab Operations in Cities for urban mobility, which MoRTH had published in December 2016 and which was sent by the Union Joint Secretary for Transport, Abhay Damle to the Secretaries of Transport in the States.

Need for answers

Both Chennai Metro and MTC are members of the UITP, the international association of public transport which will hold its summit in Montreal, Canada between May 15 and 17, 2017.

Forming a proper scheme to introduce regulated shared modes of transport in Chennai, besides expanding the static bus network of the MTC are major issues before the city. Delegates from Chennai will be called upon to explain their plan to meet these objectives during and after the UITP conference.





Integrated Transport: What Chennai MTC told the Centre to get JNNURM funds

This is an extract from the Detailed Project Report submitted by Chennai’s Metropolitan Transport Corporation in 2009 to the Union Ministry of Urban Development, seeking funding for new buses. The report contradicts itself in this segment, stating that there are insufficient pedestrian facilities and at the same time considering widening of roads. If anything the report prepared by the Division of Transportation Engineering, Anna University, Chennai should have emphasised the need to segregate pedestrians by investing in foot paths.

The assertion that ‘integration’ is successful with the rail network, particularly all MRTS stations is amusing. What is your view? In this segment, the authors have also not incorporated smart ticketing methods as a tool for integration, which represents a failure. (This extract is unedited, and faithful to the original).


Integration with other Public Transport Modes

The rapid growth of population in CMA has been causing a strain on the existing urban services and infrastructure, for want of expansion and better management. The transport sector is vital and needs carefully planned expansion to meet the demands of the increasing population. The need to take an integrated long-term view of transport needs of CMA and to plan road development, public transport services and suburban rail transport as a part of the urban planning process have been well recognised as essential for the efficient functioning of the urban system.

As far as Chennai Metropolitan area is concerned, bus is the preferred mode by common people due to easy accessibility. Almost all major roads are loaded with traffic beyond their designated capacity. The V/C ratio on most of the important roads is well above two. More over the capacity is reduced due to poor quality of riding surface, inadequate pedestrian foot paths, poor lighting conditions and lack oof properly designed intersections.The rapid growth of personalized modes of transport vehicles in the recent past is the cause of serious concern. It is almost impossible to widen the roads further matching with the pace at which personalized vehicles are put on city roads. This constraint will limit the ability of MTC even though they may have a high potential to perform.

The recent large scale fleet replacement and augmentation by MTC is quite encouraging in attracting passengers from other modes of personalized transport. The Chennai City planners have kept the targeted modal share as 70 % by public transport. The target is fairly realizable when the metro rail network is implemented in full and the road network expanded by development of elevated highways. The total person trips by motorised vehicles constituted 54.5 % of all person rips made in the CMA in 2005. 70% of all motorized person trips by 2026 which works out to be 7.9 million trips/day is to be carried by the public transport (i.e 38.15 % of all person trips by motorised vehicles). With the implementation of 46 km of Metro rail and the MRTS together with the sub-urban network is expected to carry 30 to 40% of the mass transportation trips per day. MTC with the expanded fleet size of not less than 5000 and a network of BRT carrying about 7.0 m trips / day, the target is fairly achievable (even though the rail transit is expected to carry as much as 6 m trips/day).

The City bus system is well developed and is operated through every nook and corner of the City. The two well defined bus and sub-urban rail systems have developed on their own way, with distinctly identifiable patronage and as such are little integrated and that too only by default. When the public transport systems is expected to handle the bulk of the motorized person trips a need will be felt to integrate these two systems well with each other as well with the other modes and systems of transport facilities.

This integration can truly take place only when the institutional set up like the UMTA start working in full swing. It should go on to have fresh looks at the route structuring and aid seamless transfer facilities through proper modification in the infrastructure of terminals. Park and ride facilities will have to be provided with adequate capacity at all major bus and train stations. This apart, easy transfer from one route bus to another at important bus stops will aid passengers switch bus routes. Of course, all these will have to take place in the next couple of years preceded by scientific assessments. But well before that if the MTC can resort to its replacement and augmentation programme the city commuters will get into the right track of switching towards public transport system.

To keep pace with the increasing mobility requirements, a need to optimize the existing road and transport infrastructure as well to increase the supply of road and transport infrastructure is felt. As this alone will not meet the requirements of the future a suitable transportation strategy is evolved in the Master plan. According to this Moving people rather than vehicles is stressed. Hence the role of both the rail and bus transits is to be redefined so that they move the bulk of the travel demand in the metropolis. The strategy includes within itself

  • Augmenting the coverage and capacity of the rail and bus transits resulting in higher accessibility and mobility to the commuters.
  • Removing bottlenecks in the rail transit and bus transit networks i.e., replacing road / rail level crossings by underpasses / overpasses, providing flyovers at critical road intersections
  • Priority for bus transit by reservation of lanes along major arterial roads and priority at traffic signals
  • Making the transit system affordable to all segments of the commuting population by differential pricing commensurate with the level of service at the same time reducing the gap between the cost of operation and revenue and
  • Running mini-buses between railway stations and nearby bus transit corridors and between railway stations and residential areas.

After implementation of the above in a phased manner, it will be possible that both to find rail transit and road transit are complementing each other with ultimate motive to cater the transport needs o the public of Chennai Metropolitan area.

At present the inter-modal co-ordination is successful in important railway stations such as Central, Egmore, Beach, Park Station, Avadi, Ambattur, Perambur, Chrompet, Tambaram and to some extent at all MRTS stations.

In this way after the improvement of road network and induction of additional passenger friendly and eco-friendly buses in Metropolitan Transport Corporation Ltd, both the rail and road network will be serving the public of CMA to the maximum level thereby attracting the users of private modes also the the public transport modes and achieving the modal split.

2011-16 : Will Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa give us better wheels?

When it arrives with the Business Standard periodically, the Motoring supplement with its focus on luxury motoring holds little interest for those who are intimidated by the social ideology of the motor car. But the March 2011 edition of the free supplement was worth spending some time with. That is because it has a section on commercial vehicles, including Mercedeses, Volvos, Eichers, Mahindras, Swaraj Mazdas, Tatas and even those muscular MANs.

Flipping through the plentiful van and bus choices, there is no escaping the question – why are our State Governments still clinging on to ancient rules dealing with transport? These legal anachronisms prevent many services from operating in cities and towns, and thus create a serious handicap for the average Indian who wants service, safety, comfort, ease, all without outlandish costs.

M. Karunanidhi, who is again seeking the mandate of the Tamil Nadu voter in what is essentially a three legged race mainly with the Congress, has done little to modernise the transport regulatory structure in the State. His government has, however, helped itself to funding from New Delhi under JNNURM, while ignoring the National Urban Transport Policy. In fact, even Manmohan Singh seems to have ignored his own UPA policies in this area in his second Avatar (perhaps because there is no Left pressure).

Jayalalithaa (who was building a premium bus for herself in 1996 when the gravy train went off the rails) has generally allowed crony capitalists to flourish in transport during her party’s rule. The best example of that is the omnibus operations in Tamil Nadu, which even in MGR’s day were seen as functioning under AIADMK patronage. Karunanidhi, by contrast, wanted to be seen as a socialist which he tried to achieve by parading nationalised transport as a DMK achievement. As everyone is aware, he modified his policies in his 1996-2001 tenure by drafting a scheme for mini-buses in the districts, which resonated with the population well. During 2006-11, the Tamil Nadu government announced mini-buses for Chennai, but reneged and instead turned the opportunity into a partisan affair, giving post-facto permits to its supporters to virtually operate stage carriages in Chennai.

So what do these leaders have to offer in coming years, as the demand for travel continues to rise?

We would like them to look at all the vehicle choices and draw up a policy that ensures sufficient number of vehicles for urban, peri-urban and rural connectivity. This must be done transparently, involving public consultations, scientific demand assessment and participation of civil society.

The key objective must be to ensure that all parts of cities and towns have a public transport option within a distance of about 100 to 200 metres. There must be a well-regulated system of feeder vehicles that connect rail stations, MRTS, Metro, BRT, MTC termini and other such high capacity mobility services. There must be an integrated fare — you buy one ticket or pass that is valid for all. That is the goal of the National Urban Transport Policy which the Tamil Nadu Government has adopted anyway.

For purposes of display here, we have not included legacy vehicles that are already well known – bus bodies built on truck chassis such as in Ashok Leylan Viking, Cheetah. Here are some others reported in BS Motoring.

Rear-engined semi-low floor bus from Eicher, 12 m long, floor height 650 mm, 127 bhp, diesel unit (Photo: Handout)

Then we have the Cruiser and Skyline from Eicher which would ideally be used in the “mini-bus” model serving as feeders and on low density corridors. These can be configured as 32 seaters: (Photo: Handout)

Traveller from Force Motors is a familiar vehicle, but it has not entered the transit space so far due to lack of regulatory possibilities. These vehicles can easily connect rail stations and bus termini, and operate in interior roads. They can also be operated as air-conditioned services in a chartered mode, providing an excellent commuting option that mimics door-to-door transportation by car. At present, this segment is catered to by maxi-cabs that are ramshackle old-style vans by Mahindra.

The Tourister from Mahindra also falls in the intermediate category, with reported seating variants from 16 to 40. Would serve same feeder purpose as stated above. It can be a 3.2 litre or 2.6 litre engine, and there is a CNG version also in the 2.6 litre range. (Photo: Handout)

The big boys of the pack come from the Volvo and Mercedes stables. The Mercedes Benz 0 500R is, according the Business Standard piece, the German answer to Volvo. That suits passengers just fine, only those buying these buses must spend that extra rupee to maintain them well, and not let them rust away. This 0 500R Benz (below) is in the league of the Volvo B7R/9R range of buses. It can seat 50 or 53, and derives its 300 bhp punch from a 7200 cc six cylinder turbo diesel. (Photo Courtesy: Mauro_trans’ Photostream on Flickr)

Swaraj Mazda has a couple of buses that again draw attention to the feeder and commuter bus possibilties. They are not really new, but none of their potential is diminished. This configuration is ideally suited for congested interior localities that need connectivity to main bus depots and arterial roads. There is one CNG offering also in the stable, powered by a 3.5 litre engine producing 75 bhp, in 26, 32 and 41 seater variants. (Photo: Handout)

This is the Prestige Bus from Swaraj Mazda Limited – Isuzu. It is a 40 seater, with a 227 bhp performance, and individual air–conditioning vents for passengers. Suits the inter-city segment better, unless there is a variant for start-stop city operations. (Photo: Swaraj Mazda corporate handout)

Tatas’ City Ride and Winger both aimed at feeder-type or low density service are well known, and so are the Starbus BRTS/CNG which have received a lot of attention in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games infrastructure building phase. So we are not reproducing them here.

Finally, Volvo. The 9400 4X2/6X2 and the 8400 low floor are among the best known city wheels, although the lack of regulatory support has left these products in limbo. Chennai, for instance has only about a 100 buses in operation, and they are being poorly maintained by the Metropolitan Transport Corporation through whatever arrangements they have made. They are also kept as high-priced offerings, without innovations such as lower off-peak fares. At the same time, some of these Volvo buses operating on the IT sector are grossly overloaded (route 219 A), affecting the longevity of the vehicle.

In this post we have dealt almost entirely on urban and peri-urban vehicle choices and policy. The inter-city and inter-state situation is equally neglected, particularly in Tamil Nadu. The State Express Transport Corporation has become moribund over the past ten years, including, surprisingly, during DMK rule.

Once again, we must reiterate that whether it is led by Karunanidhi, Jayalalithaa, M.K. Stalin or someone else, the next government in Chennai must rethink transport policy. The Chennai Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority and other city transport authorities must be compelled by public opinion to work for the commuter through new investment and services, integrated and smart ticketing, better information systems. They must not to be allowed to perpetuate an antiquated transport framework belonging to the 1960s.

Over 70 pc of Chennai MTC passengers buy tickets on board buses

How many passengers travel on the MTC, Chennai on an average day, and what kind of ticket do they buy?

The Detailed Project Report of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation submitted to the Union Ministry of Urban Development for funding under JNNURM contains one table with that information.

The MTC is to yet provide the full report to us despite the order of the Tamil Nadu Information Commission, but it has supplied some scrappy bits so far. This is one of them. The Division of Transportation Engineering, Anna University, Chennai, which has produced the report for MTC, says it took a middle of the week working day (07.01.2009) as the representative sample.

The file is available for download in Excel format here Category of MTC travel 2009.

Type Passengers/day

Regular commuters with ticket purchase 33,63,393

Travel As You Please pass 6,13,500

Monthly Season Tickets 1,40,652

Student concession 1,10,288

Student/Free pass 5,50,000

Total 47,77,833

Source: Detailed Project Report, MTC, 2009

More such tables will follow. It is our belief that the extraordinarily high percentage of passengers buying tickets on board is due to lack of ticketing reform. If the Travel As You Please passes were widely available, it would form the dominant ticketing format. But MTC does not wish that to happen. The scope for more advanced technologies, such as contactless ticketing, to be introduced in Chennai appears remote under such circumstances.

MTC Chennai DPR: Information Commission reserves orders

The Tamil Nadu Information Commission today reserved orders on my appeal against the refusal of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Chennai, to provide its Detailed Project Report on bus services funded by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Appellate Authority at MTC had rejected my first appeal, on the ground that it attracted exclusion under Section 8 (1) (d) of the RTI Act.

I argued before the Information Commissioner that the MTC was wrongly invoking the Section. The funds for the DPR were drawn from the exchequer, making it a public document. The MTC also contended that three months of effort had gone into the preparation of the DPR at Anna University, and Rs. 16 lakhs had been paid as consultancy fee. Therefore, the report should not be released into the public domain.

The Information Commission recorded my argument that the DPR was prepared for a public purpose, and it was fully funded by tax payers, and hence rightfully could be claimed as public property. Every government project now involved the use of consultants, and this could not be used as a justification to refuse publication of the report. Also, there was no personal gain involved. My request fully met the criterion of public interest.

Other questions that MTC has refused to answer, and which are now to be decided by the Commission are : the quantum of funds allocated under the JNNURM for purchase of buses for MTC, Chennai, and whether the funding conditions stipulate that the buses should not be operated outside Chennai.

RTI appeal: MTC adamant, unwilling to consider precedents

We filed an appeal on August 25, 2010 with the Appellate Authority of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation, Chennai, on the refusal of information by the Public Information Officer. The appeal is reproduced below, since it contains many citations that might be usefully discussed by the RTI community.

Such efforts can only be strengthened if the large community of commuters in Chennai get together and demand transparency in the working of the MTC.

The Managing Director
Metropolitan Transport Corporation
Pallavan House, Chennai 600002

Dear Sir,

Appeal filed under Right to Information Act, 2005, Please look at your reply to my application, your ref No. 37203/RTI/MTC/2010 Dated 10-08-2010
With reference to above reply, I would like to inform you that the Public Information Officer of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has seriously erred in interpreting the Right to Information Act provisions and wrongly denied my request for specific information. I hereby appeal that you review and reverse the decision of the PIO for reasons that follow, and provide me full information as sought.

The PIO has refused to provide information for three questions, detailed below and contained in my petition, citing exemption under Section 8 (1) (d). He has not provided a proper answer to question No. 5 of my petition, and has written something unintelligible.

I had asked for a copy (including electronic copy, as an alternative), of the Detailed Project Report of the MTC, submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development for grant assistance under JNNURM funding.

I reproduce the questions for your ready reference:

1. Provide a copy of the Detailed Project Report submitted by MTC to the Ministry of Urban Development or other authority, for assistance to acquire and operate buses under the JNNURM scheme (as required under Ministry of Urban Development regulations). You can also send the DPR copy electronically as a PDF document by  email.

(Question 2 answered)

3. How many buses are under JNNURM grant, and what is the value of the grant in financial terms?

4. Do the JNNURM grant conditions stipulate that the buses should only be operated in the city covered by DPR, and not diverted for other use?

5. Has MTC attended any meeting of a newly formed Transport Regulatory Authority in Chennai during 2008-10? If yes, what was the decision taken on integrating rail and bus service in Chennai, as required under Ministry of Urban Development’s Total Mobility Plan covering JNNURM assistance? (No answer received, only unintelligible response)

I have to contend that your PIO’s resort to the exemption under S. 8 (1) (d) to deny answers to Questions 1, 3 and 4 is erroneous, for the following reasons.

The MTC is a monopoly public entity owned by the Government of Tamil Nadu, with no scope for competitive commercial activity within the city of Chennai. It is accountable to the legislature of the State, has no commercial secrets that the public should not know. It is not engaged in creation of intellectual property which is sought to be deployed for profit within the meaning of the Right to Information Act.

Your mandate is to provide people-friendly bus service to the city of Chennai in the public interest, for which you derive funds from the Government of Tamil Nadu and fare income from passengers. The MTC is therefore funded by the public. These sources form the dominant part of your operational funding, and as a monopoly, you have no commercial disadvantage of any kind (as defined in the RTI for a Third Party) in highlighting your operational information and plans for public service. If anything, such information will aid the public to strengthen the plans of the government and create goodwill for enhanced funding of bus service, fulfilling the scope of JNNURM and National Urban Transport Policy and also the aims of the State government.

MTC also has no fiduciary relationship with any profit-seeking entity, as it is a wholly government-owned undertaking.

Please note that your PIO has not explained the reasons for denial of information, or how the disclosure of the requested information would affect the commercial interests of MTC. Such explanation is called for by law. You are requested to peruse the order of the Central Information Commission in R. Venkataraman v. IOCL, decision dated 24-06-2009 in this regard. The CIC has in that case directed the disclosure of information and pulled up the PIO for not offering reasons for denial.

Also, your DPR has already been submitted to the funding agency, and disclosure of the information will in no way affect its commercial scope, if any. You have no patents on any of the designs involved, or other exclusive intellectual property that is protected by law.

In Qayyum Mohammad, Sidhi v. NTPC Limited, the Central Information Commission (Appeal No. CIC / MA / A / 2007 / 00625 dated 3-12-2007) has specifically quashed the denial of request for copy of a Project Report under Section 8 (1) (d), holding that there is no justification for not putting such study reports in public domain, especially when a large number of people are likely to be affected due to execution of the relevant projects. I contend that the same principle be applied to MTC DPR, since it is being paid for by the citizens of India, and envisages expansion of bus service affecting a large number of citizens in Chennai and suburbs. It is fully in the public interest.

As you are well aware, the Right to Information Act was enacted by the Government of India with the goal of increasing transparency in the administration at all levels, reducing corruption and making public services accountable and accessible to the citizens.

The scope of section 8 (1) (d) is only to protect intellectual property that has commercial implications for any entity, including a public sector entity, in terms of its anticipated revenue performance, garnering of profits, sale of IP rights and so on.

In the case of the Detailed Project Report for special JNNURM grant, as envisaged by the Union Urban Development Ministry and publicised on its website, the scope of the document is to assess the present performance of the service provider, and outline the future scope of service provision while making an application for grant funding. This is a perspective plan, and contains no exclusive commercial information that is likely to affect your earnings or give someone a competitive advantage over you, more so since you are a monopoly. What is more, the grant is to be funded by the taxpayer, who has every right to be kept informed about how his tax funds remitted to government are being spent.

In fact, it is contended that MTC, as a tax-funded entity, should have put up this document suo motu, under Section 4 (1) (b), (c) and (d). You may note the relevant provision of the law: publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect public; and It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.

It is to be noted that the MTC PIO has totally misread or misunderstood the provision of Sec 8 (1) (d) because other transport corporations, including commercial undertakings such as Indore City Transport Services Limited are available on the Internet, freely accessible to the general public.
See Indore City Bus DPR here
Ahmedabad DPR on Bus Rapid Transit system here (link since removed) and now available here
Pune BRT DPR here

I would like to point out that MTC has not even complied with the basic requirement of the law since it came into force, which is to publish information on the corporation website under Section 4 (1) as mandated under pro-active disclosure clauses. Only a search on the Internet reveals the presence of a Section 4 document under RTI for the MTC, and it is not displayed to the public on your website. It is also not clear whether it has been updated to be current. You are requested to comply with this section of the Act without delay.

Your attention is also drawn to the Union Ministry publishing key aspects to be covered by the DPR, such as features of buses to be purchased under JNNURM grant, and the model of service provision, maintenance of buses and compliance with the Centre’s Urban Transport Policy. This document is in the public domain on the website of the Union Urban Development Ministry at this location:

The Government of India has repeatedly affirmed that it is committed to transparent functioning and accountability in use of public funds, as envisaged in the Constitution, and in the Right to Information Act. JNNURM funding falls totally under the ambit of public projects, as it is used in a public service, and is entirely in the public interest. You are required to disclose information under Section 8 (1) (d) under the public interest provision, even if it is otherwise covered by the Third Party commercial clause.

Without prejudice to my above claim in the public interest, I would like to state that your PIO has violated the provisions of the RTI Act by denying the DPR in toto, when there are precedents to show that even where commercial interests are involved, other parts of a document are not covered by the exemption granted by Sec 8 (1) (d). I am citing this merely to reinforce the point that your PIO has not considered my application with an open mind, and in the public interest, but rejected my request arbitrarily.

In Navroz Mody v. Mumbai Port Trust, the Central Information Commission held that even where there is a confidentiality clause in an agreement, such agreement could not be withheld wholesale, without making a determination whether there are parts which are confidential and others that are not. (Appeal No. CIC / AT / A / 2009 / 009964).

I contend that since your PIO has not assigned any reason and denied all information pertaining to the DPR, he has considered my application with the pre-determined conclusion not to disclose any information at all. This is clearly unacceptable and violative of my citizen’s rights under the RTI Act. It also violates the principle of public interest and natural justice for citizens.

Now therefore, you are requested to reverse the decision of the PIO and provide a copy of the Detailed Project Report for funding of buses under JNNURM either as paper copy or as an electronic file in Portable Document Format.

As the information sought has not been provided within the stipulated time of 30 days based on a wrong reading of the provisions, no further charges are payable to you to get a copy of it.
You are also requested to provide information relating to question number 5 in the original petition, as the PIO has failed to do so.

Thanking you,



Chennai Transport Regulatory Authority: MTC has not attended a single meeting

It is now confirmed that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation of Chennai, the monopoly bus operator, has not attended a single meeting of the Transport Regularity Authority reported to have been set up by the Karunanidhi government under the Union Government’s mandatory requirements for financial assistance.

In the context of this discussion, the TRA referred to is a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority. The question posed to MTC under the RTI was, “Has MTC attended any meeting of a newly formed Transport Regulatory Authority in Chennai during 2008-10? If yes, what was the decision taken on integrating rail and bus service in Chennai, as required under Ministry of Urban Development’s Total Mobility Plan covering JNNURM assistance?”

“MTC has not attended in the meeting of a newly formed Transport Regularity Authority in Chennai during 2008-2010” says a response from the Appellate Authority of the Corporation, which has been availing assistance under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Mission. The JNNURM and the National Urban Transport Policy require that States set up UMTAs for cities, in order to qualify for funding.

This assertion makes it clear that the DMK and unwittingly, its partner, the Congress, have been duping the people of Chennai about transport reform.

Under the circumstances, it means little whether there is one MTC or two, as today’s news reports announce.

The attitude of the DMK Government to the TRA also makes the future of the Chennai Metro Rail very doubtful. After all, what can a party with so little commitment to commuters provide with a Metro? It will be another system run as per the whims and fancies of the party brass, not as a professional transit system. Integration of buses and trains will remain a wish.

If this situation is to be averted, the Japanese funding agency for the Rs.14,000 crore-plus Metro project should stipulate the operational norms for the Chennai Metro Rail, and monitor the progress every step of the way. There should also be transparency on what has been done so far, using the CMRL website.

In answer to several questions on its future plans for Chennai bus transport, the monopoly bus corporation MTC has refused to provide answers, citing section 8 (1) (d) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

We will pursue that part of the petition in the State Information Commission.

Chennai’s MTC won’t talk about its bus passes

Two notices neatly displayed in the interior of a "deluxe" MTC bus in Chennai.

When it was asked under a Right to Information application why MTC buses do not carry prominent notices about the availability of Travel As You Please passes for daily, weekly and monthly travel, it said it was “not necessary”, as the public already knew about it!

Such is the ludicrous state of service on Chennai’s tax-funded, monopoly bus operation. As we have pointed out earlier, neighbouring Bangalore is doing wonderfully well with its BMTC fleet of Vajra Volvos and other classes of services. Not only is a pass available for ALL buses (except airport coaches), the pass information is boldly highlighted inside the bus.

It is shameful that the MTC has cussedly refused to consider giving its TAYP passes wider visibility. The only explanation can be that it never pursued the question of bus passes seriously, and would like to keep it quiet on the one hand, and difficult to obtain on the other.

Here are the responses of the MTC, to RTI questions:

6. The Planning Commission Working Group for Public Transport including Mass Rapid Transportation System for the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) says JNNURM funds deployment should be consistent with National Urban Transport Policy. The Policy stipulates integration of bus and rail transport. Against this background, provide details of the following:

a. What steps are taken by MTC to make the daily, weekly and monthly bus passes available to passengers throughout the month, and during all working hours with conductors, timekeeper booths, depots, and prominent places such as Railway Stations and Tamil Nadu Government offices?

Answer: Already daily, weekly and monthly concessional tickets are issued by MTC. One day TAYP ticket issued through Conductors. Weekly and Monthly tickets are sold through MTC Sales Counters located at important places in Chennai City from 1 to 20th of every month.

b. Has notice of availability of Daily, Weekly, Monthly passes been pasted on board MTC buses? If not, why?

Answer: Necessary display has been provided at the Counters and information also available in MTC’s web site. It is not necessary to exhibit in all MTC buses as the Public are already aware and there is no scarcity of the above tickets.
c. Do MTC buses enter and exit suburban and/or MRTS stations, utilising the space allocated for this purpose inside the MRTS stations? If not, why?

Answer: Already, MTC buses are operated to the near/through (sic) MRTS Stations, Beach, Park, Chintadripet, Taramani, Velachery, Indra Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur,  Chepuk (sic), Thirumylai, Mandaveli. If adequate space is provided, bus connection will be made in the remaining stations.

It must be pointed out that private advertisement bills (unauthorised) are pasted inside the MTC buses, as this picture shows. It is clearly facilitated by collusion between crew and such advertisers, consider the neat display of these notices. What an irony that commuter information is not available in a similar fashion, to facilitate travel!

We must also ask MTC whether it does not want tourists arriving in Chennai to use buses. It would help all tourists if the information on the passes is advertised. It would also end the harassment of tourists who are caught without ticket, and penalised for no fault of their, because they could not buy a ticket on-board the crowded bus, before a checking crew boarded it. This is an absolutely disgraceful way to conduct the affairs of a mass transit corporation in a city with global aspirations. Will the Union Minister for Urban Development, the JNNURM top brass and the Tamil Nadu Government intervene to bring about change?

We reproduce from the MTC website, the details of the existing bus passes. You can quickly see that the idea is not to enable increase in efficiency of the pass system. It is more a “Take it or leave it” approach; weekly passes are sold only on three days, and monthly passes between a specified set of dates; the concept of rolling dates does not exist.

Procedures for getting the tickets:

Commuters who like to get the Travel As you Please Ticket Card (weekly / Monthly) shall obtain an Identity Card at MTC’s Sales Counters by paying Rs.5/-. The Travel As you Please Ticket Card will be issued on production of this Identity Card only.

Issuing points: [Sales Counters available at]

1.   Adyar
2.   K.K.Nagar
3.   Saidapet
4.   Guindy
5.   Velachery
6.   Mandaveli
7.   Tambaram (East)
8.   Tambaram (West)
9.   Pallavaram
10. T.Nagar
11. Thiruvanmiyur
12. Iyyappanthangal
13. Vadapalani
14. High Court
15. Broadway
16. Ambathur Industrial
17. Anna Nagar (West)
18. Avadi
19. Ayanavaram
20. Perambur
21. C.M.B.T.
22. V.Nagar
23. Redhiills
24. M.K.B.Nagar
25. Villivakkam
26. Tondiarpet
27. Thiruvotriyur
28. Poonamallee
29. Ambathur OT.
Working Hours:
08.30 Hours to 11.00 Hours
15.00 Hours to 19.30 Hours
Period of issue:
WEEKLY TICKETS : All Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays
MONTHLY TICKETS : From 1st to 20th of every month.

If this is the attitude of the Tamil Nadu Government under the DMK to providing transport information, what can one expect from a Rs. 14,000 crore plus Metro Rail? The Japanese agency providing the financial linkage to the State should take a serious view of the situation and draw up suitable measures, if the Metro is also not to go the way of the other transit systems in Tamil Nadu’s ‘Detroit’.

MTC refuses to disclose JNNURM plan under RTI

The Right to Information Act, 2005 is meant to make government transparent, but Chennai’s monopoly, government-owned bus operator Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) refuses to see the law that way.

In response to a Right to Information Act application seeking the Detailed Project Report of the Corporation for acquisition of buses under the Centrally-funded Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), it has taken cover under Section 8 (1) (d) of the Act to refuse disclosure.

Section 8 (1) (d) states as follows: information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

It is amusing that a government-run bus utility that is funded with taxpayer money has taken recourse to such a provision. Since the disclosure is likely to harm a third party, is it likely that MTC has planned some privatisation, and is in the process of firming up some deal?

We will no doubt be appealing the refusal, and taking MTC to the Information Commission if it continues with its obdurate ways. The position taken by MTC is untenable, because similar DPRs of other states are available in the public domain, and on the Internet, and the funding agency, JNNURM hosts some documents suo motu. For example, here is a link to the DPR of the Airport Link project for Bangalore.

Other questions that MTC has refused to answer, citing the same provision of the Act, are as follows:

1. The number of buses purchased by MTC using the JNNURM grant, and the value of the grant.

2.Do the JNNURM grant conditions stipulate that the buses should only be operated in the city covered by DPR, and not diverted for other use?

In reply to a question on integration of transport under the Government of India’s Total Mobility Plan for cities, the MTC answers “brief details may be furnished” but provides nothing.

It is our view that MTC is clearly in breach of the RTI Act. We urge other transport activists to also file RTI petitions, both with the MTC and the Ministry of Urban Development of the Union Government, seeking the DPR on Chennai transport.

The attitude of MTC confirms our belief that the DMK Government is using transport as a pocket borough, and a tool for political activity, rather than as a modern transport network serving the people of Chennai.

This is furtheraffirmed by the responses given by MTC in response to our queries on why it is not widely advertising its bus passes, including Travel as You Please for daily use. We are posting that information separately on this blog.

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