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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 04 February, 2021

  • 9 Min Read

Budget 2021 and Public Transportation

Budget 2021 and Public Transportation

  • With a clear focus on expansion of Metro Rail and bus services through Central funding, Budget 2021 has recognised a core component of urbanisation.
  • Comfortable, safe and affordable commuting has well-recognised multiplier effects for the economy and more generally for public health, although COVID-19 has had the perverse effect of driving people away to the safety of personal car and two-wheeler bubbles.
  • There is little doubt that when the pandemic is under control, more people will return to clean and green mass mobility.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement of Central funding of ?1,957 crore, ?63,246 crore and ?14,788 crore for the Kochi, Chennai and Bengaluru Metro projects, respectively, gives these big cities greater certainty that they can meet targets.
  • Less certain, however, is the impact of the proposed ?18,000 crore plan to augment public bus transport using a PPP model that will enable private sector players to finance, acquire, operate and maintain over 20,000 buses.
  • India’s ratio of buses to population is a low 1.2 per 1,000 people, compared to 8.6 in Thailand and 6.5 in South Africa, although some States like Karnataka are well ahead of the national average, as per NITI Aayog data.
  • Licensed private urban bus services remain a politically sensitive topic in many States, where State monopolies coexist with unregulated paratransit, and it will take a major effort to convince them that a bus renaissance is a good post-pandemic recovery strategy.
  • The amended Motor Vehicles Act has provisions for the Centre to take the lead here.

Challenges of Urbanisation

  • The challenge of urbanisation goes beyond standalone interventions such as Metro and bus system grants.
  • State governments, which retain effective control over urban development rather than city administrations, have failed to operationalise the umbrella authorities to regulate transport.
  • Common mobility cards that would help citizens use bus, train and feeder networks seamlessly were largely in pilot project mode even before the pandemic.
  • There is valid criticism that the existing paradigm is one of “exclusionary urbanisation”, which makes Metro and bus services expensive for the majority, particularly for those forced to live in the suburbs due to housing costs, and sometimes making the per kilometre cost of using a two-wheeler more attractive.
  • Moreover, Census 2011 showed that the number of Census Towns, which are urban for census purposes but not named urban local bodies, grew tremendously over a decade.
  • Census Towns lack access to funding, infrastructure and capacity to meet the needs of large populations even now.
  • Enhanced ambition, therefore, requires the Centre to work with State governments to integrate key areas with its transport vision, such as affordable inner-city housing, including rental projects, access to civic services and health care, and enhanced sustainability, greenery and walkability.
  • All these are covered by Central budgetary schemes for cities. Only integration can bring about inclusive urbanisation.

Source: TH


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