Noida is a city that needs no introduction. It is a swanky town near Delhi that is part of the National Capital Region (NCR). It is an Information Technology hub which perfectly portrays the growth story of India. A look at the swanky buildings and thousands of white-collar workers shows that Noida is indeed a feather in the cap of India.
But, a look at the public transport system of Noida shows a different side. The metro is the main source of travel for intercity commutes. It covers a small part of the twin cities of Noida and Greater Noida, so its use for intracity travel is minimal.
For intra-city travel, within Noida and Greater Noida, a large part of the population depends on private autorickshaws and buses. Although there are three govt. operators – Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) and Noida Metro Rail Corporation (NMRC) – which provide bus services in Noida, the density and penetration are insufficient to cater to its large and rapidly growing population. Besides, the recent phenomenon of Olas and Ubers have made life comfortable for some, but their use is limited to a small, more privileged lot.
Anyone who has been to Noida would have noticed the rickety yellow buses of UPSRTC. These are non- AC, high floor buses with a fleet size of 276. A look at them during peak hours shows that they are utterly cramped, making it impossible for senior citizens, ladies and people with disabilities to get in. With even such a small fleet, they are mostly under-maintained. The drivers resort to rash-driving, creating dangerous situations on the road.
But a glaring case of dereliction of duty was exposed after this writer filed an RTI. There have been zero challans for ticket-less travel during the last four years. Not even a single person has been fined since 2013 till now for travelling without a ticket. A public transport system where the main source of revenue is tickets has been left in the lurch without any supervision.
It might seem like a big ‘error of omission’ to some, but a regular traveller would know from experience that the bus conductors are reluctant to give tickets and are eager to pocket the fare. In absence of any vigilance or a flying-squad, it is done brazenly. The same RTI reply shows that around 300 conductors have been fined for not giving tickets. This comes out to less than 1 conductor per day. It is not known what actions are taken regarding such incidents, and whether they bother anyone at the higher echelons of the Govt.
A recent strike by NMRC bus conductors proves a point in this regard. The strike was called on the demand that bus conductors should be allowed to pocket the fare of four passengers each, instead of issuing them tickets. The strike sought to legitimise this action. It may seem bizarre and ridiculous at first, but shows a deeper malaise of the system.
Public transport is the backbone of any city and a metropolis like Noida needs a world-class system. With initiatives like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a lot of focus has been given to the creation of new public transport systems. Efficient operation of existing transport is equally important, and a proper governance structure needs to be put in place for this.
With the advent of technology in public transport throughout the world, Noida should also start taking steps in this direction. Recent proposals for an integrated card for the metro and buses, which allows cashless travel, should be adopted. This would curb corruption in a big way. Along with this, self-dispensing ticket machines should be placed in the buses for the convenience of the passengers. But, these measures must be accompanied by extensive checking and stricter punishment for ticket-less travel. Both the conductors and passengers must be appropriately fined in these cases.
The loopholes in the system must be immediately plugged. With the support of people, Noida can surely be a harbinger of hope for ‘New India’.