The unfortunate incident of May 31, 2018 erupted due to the traffic congestion - revealed the preliminary findings of the government and the stakeholders who are diagnosing the pitiful road skirmish between some women and a driver of a Shillong Public Transport Service (SPTS) bus at Them Meteor (Iew Mawlong) which led to an assault of three persons comprising the bus conductor, the sons and nephew of the driver. Matters had taken an ugly turn as things were blown out of proportion as the rumours through social media spiraled the situation out of control resulting in imposition of curfew in the state capital after a gap 15 years. The government had acknowledged that action was not taken immediately as they were also caught unaware due to conflicting reports, yet the Shillong Traffic Police is still clueless on how to ease the manmade disasters which have choked the city.
This is not the only incident as there have been an increased number of complaints regarding the reckless driving of the STPS buses drivers owned by Urban Affairs Department, Government of Meghalaya. Earlier in yet another unfortunate incident, a Sumo (ML 05 L 6988) was slammed into by none other than the driver of an STPS bus with registration number, ML 01 6845, on February 12, 2017 at about 11:40 pm at Barik point, which is one of the most accident prone lanes in the city. The Red Bus driver had broken the No Entry rule at Shillong Civil Hospital which had caused the mishap.
In this particular case, one wonders as how the said bus was plying near mid-night, and after causing the accident leaving all the four sumo passengers on the road with the driver fleeing the scene and abandoning the bus.
The complaints of the rash driving and bad conduct of the conductors still continues to pour in, not taking care of the safety of the commuters while embarking or disembarking, they always seems to be in a rush, except at few allotted bus-stands they will refuse to move till the bus is jam-packed.
It has now become the compulsory duty of the parents to drop and pick up their wards from school, where the parents of respective schools have their own groups or circles which, besides discussing issues like homework, should now extend their services to the district administration to find a solution not only to ease the traffic congestion, but to protect the school students from various threats in the society.
The parents and some concerned citizens had once proposed the introduction of public transport like school bus, after they have experienced day long traffic jam. But after the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) bus operators refused to serve as school buses, the demand had its natural death.
The Court had earlier ordered that all educational institutions should have enough space for parking and enabling the vehicles to drop and pick up the students inside the campus. But such action was never adhered to by any of the schools and colleges, including the government schools while almost all the schools expect the parents to own a vehicle such that the students will reach the school in time.
At the same time, the parents who had moved for school bus to ease the traffic congestion have simply given up the fight as the STPS refuse to serve as school buses. The same committee should now press on educational institutions to acquire the buses for the same as done in other countries and also some institutions in other states. All it takes is political will and cooperation of the citizens to ease the problem as expansion of the city roads is impossible.
The recently awarded smart city project is quite similar to the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), a massive city-modernization scheme which was launched by the former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on December 3, 2005 for a seven-year period. This mission is aimed at improving the quality of life and infrastructure in the cities initiating steps for bringing phased improvements in their civic service levels. The government had extended the tenure of the mission for two years, i.e., from April 2012 to March 31, 2014. It is a huge mission which relates primarily to development in the context of urban conglomerates focusing on the Indian cities.
The incumbent State Urban Affairs Minister Hamletson Dohling himself had recently made a press statement that the upkeep of the damaged SPTS buses by way of parking facilities is costing the State Government dearly as it has to rent different depots to house these vehicles. This was revealed during an inspection conducted by Dohling to these depots located at Mawpat, Laitkor and Mawblei here on Tuesday. This was after the department had submitted a proposal to dispose of a total of 53 defunct buses.
It was informed that the department had to rent private land to park these buses. According to an official, the landowner at Laitkor, where 17 buses are being kept, is charging monthly rent of Rs 40,000 while the one at Mawkynroh (having 9 buses) is taking Rs 550 for each bus per month.
Another 20 buses are also parked on private land at Mawpat at a cost of Rs 5,000 per month, which however is being paid by the operator (Synroplang Self Help Group) and 7 others are parked at government owned land at Mawblei.
JnNURM is aimed at creating ‘economically productive, efficient, equitable and responsive Cities’ by a strategy of upgrading the social and economic infrastructure in cities, provision of Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) and wide-ranging urban sector reforms to strengthen municipal governance in accordance with the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992.
Now that the SPTS bus services have been outsources to the private parties, the Meghalaya Transport Authority (MTC), whose hard work managed to qualify for the funding of the JnNURM buses, in the initial stage, the authorities were generating revenue, while the private operators have resulted to the above buses parked in different rent private land.
Whereas, both the SPTS buses and SSPTS maxicabs have been outsourced to the private operators, who are running them as commercial vehicles but are running under the registration of government vehicles (ML-01) and seems to have been exempted from paying the different taxes mandated as per the Motor Vehicles Act. It is unfair for the government to exempt the SPTS buses and SSPTS maxicabs from paying the different taxes including passenger, permit and others, and once there is any damaged, the private operators’ simple discard the vehicle causing loss to the state government.
It is not just the SPTS buses and SSPTS maxicabs drivers and conductors who need to be oriented, so also the contracts for the private operators need a re-look so that the reckless driving, causing unnecessary traffic congestions could be streamlined in Meghalaya to avoid further break down of law and order in the state due to poor management of traffic particularly the JnNURM buses.