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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No bus to school, students walk 10 km – sordid state of Pozhichalur, Chennai City.

Today’s news item in Times of India that for more than a month now, hundreds of students in Pozhichalur, 20 km south of Chennai, have been forced to walk to the Pallavaram government secondary school and back home, a distance of 10 km, because the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has brought down the total number of buses from 13 to just two buses every day makes a very sad reading. Pozhichalur is no dusty village – it is situated closer to the city, much closer to the Airport and was infact in news for long as this was stated to be the area where airport expansion was to take place. This place reportedly known as Pughal Chola Nallur dating back to Chola rulers famous for Agastgeeswarar and Sri Ramaanjaneya temple is closer to Pallavaram railway station on the local electric train network.

Even the existing two bus services such as 60G (Pozhichalur to Parrys Corner) and M52B (Pozhichalur to Broadway) have been converted into a ‘cut service’ for more than a month now. At present, these two buses operate from Pozhichalur to Pallavaram and Hastinapuram. There on, commuters have to board another bus at GST Road to reach the city. A few services also operated to Guduvancherry and Koyambedu from Pozhichalur. But, they were not operated regularly. Earlier, buses were operated to Broadway, Parrys Corner, Avadi, Saidapet and other places in the city from Pozhichalur. Now, the twodecades-old bus terminus in Pozhichalur wears a deserted look. Even the two buses are operated irregularly, as the time-keeper has been transferred to Chromepet.

More daunting is the reason assigned quoting sources in MTC that these rural areas do not boost the revenue of the buses. This straightaway takes away to the thought process of What Government should be doing and what should be done with profit motive !!

In a democracy it is the bounden duty of the Government to take care of its citizen which would include providing education and maintaining roads and other utilities. Can there be any argument that roads would be put and infrastructure provided only where there is revenue ?

Chennai’s economic development is tied to its port and transport infrastructure. The transportation requirement of the city residents are met by extensive public transport system. The bus service is run by the government-owned Metropolitan Transport Corporation which extends to the city and its suburbs. This service is generally considered efficient though there would be pockets which are not well connected and ill served due to paucity of services. Many of us would remember “PTC” – the Pallavan Transport Corporation as it was known earlier. PTC was established way back in 1972 with a fleet strength of 1029 buses. Then it was bifurcated into Pallavan and Dr Ambedkar Transport Corpn in 1994. Year 1997 saw their renaming as MTC Chennai division 1 & 2 then amalgamated in 2001.

The bus services have been brought down from 13 to 2 every day. The transport officials were reported to have stated that there was no revenue in these routes, roads in rural sectors are bad, often buses break down and hence the decision to avoid these areas.  The direct result is that the travellers – young and old have to wrestle for space or walk the long distance to reach their destinations. With no buses what would be the use of bus passes. This move coming as it did close to public examinations have added woes to the sorry state of affairs. Though Chennai is a metropolitan city, still there are pockets where getting to school itself is a big concession for some students whose parents are either marginal farmers or do menial jobs.

The development and maintenance of roads and infrastructure is a fundamental duty of the Government. The development of transportation is an essential factor for improving infrastructure for fuelling development of the state economy. There were times when some reputed Private companies operated bus services – known for their precision and accuracy – they were making good profits. Obviously, private players would eye for profits rather than providing service to the rural and low revenue earning areas.

Soon after independence, the nationalisation of passenger road transport in Tamilnadu commenced and Govt. took over all routes in Chennai city. In 1959, Govt exclusively owned operation in all routes exceeding 120 miles and long distance buses were introduced by State owned Transport Dept. In 1967, Govt. announced nationalisation of all routes of 120 km and above, all routes radiating from or terminating in Madras city irrespective of length and all routes in Kankakumari Dist. In 1971 Tamil Nadu Fleet Operators Stage Carriages (Acquisition) Act was enacted by which all the routes, buses, workshops and the staff of the five fleet operators owning 50 permits and above were acquired and transferred to three Transport Corporations viz. Pandiyan Roadways Corporation, Cheran Transport Corporation and Cholan Roadways Corporation. The saga of operation only by Govt has seen many court and many decisions.

It is another story that all State owned transport corporations had accumulated huge losses and many have not honoured even Court decrees passed in MACT and other forums arising out of road accidents involving transport corporation owned buses.
The Govt. has Revenue Dept which serves as the backbone of administrative set up boasts of having a defined network that runs from cities to villages reaching every family implementing all socio economic programmes of the Govt. In recent years, the Transport Corporation also acclaims to provide responsive system for the welfare of passengers by providing safe, secure, passenger comfort through efficient operations.

It is unfortunate that the common man continues to suffer.

Regards – Sampathkumar


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