To compensate for the losses in the regular operations, BMTC is now having to look at newer and newer avenues, though in the process they may be deviating totally from their original mandate. The increased contract services for schools and IT sector companies, etc are a part of all that. In addition now are the grandiose schemes of building the so-called TTMC's, again through a totally non-transparent process, with the main object of earning revenues through lease to Big Bazaar, etc, but camouflaged as passenger amenities.
The idea of nationalizing public services like bus transport, banking, insurance, etc, by the Indira Gandhi government, was supposedly to serve the Social objectives of making them readily available to the common man. While the objectives were certainly laudable, how things shaped up eventually, only went on to re-enforce the adage that 'Socialism can only be preached, but not practised', particularly in India. The governments that followed slowly began realising the mistake that had been made, but, instead of reversing the policies in toto, they allowed the babudom to bring-in the 'license-permit raaj', which proved even more disastrous than Socialism.
With the economy on the verge of bankruptcy, the Narasimha Rao government (with Mr Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister) was forced to take on a few bold measures. The opening up of the economy that followed started showing results immediately, and there was no going back from then on. With the Vajpayee government furthering the process, India was actually beginning to shine, as they had claimed at the time of going to the general elections. However, a few critical areas, particularly agriculture, and key infrastructural sectors power, bus transport services, etc had remained neglected, and the Vajpayee government was forced to pay the price for it all inspite of having done comparably well otherwise.
The present government, though ideologically aligned with the Vajpayee government on economic issues, has not been able to make much progress on reforms in these critical areas, because of its dependency so far on the left parties. With the situation changed now, how far they can move in the remaining nine months is to be seen.
But, the irony of it all is that most of these services are in the hands of the state governments. But, with Socialism remaining too steeped in the minds of the run-of-the-mill Indian politician, whether from Congress or BJP, nobody was prepared to stick his neck out and take the necessary step forward. It finally required a Mayawati to do it - to dismantle the monopoly of the government in providing the services, to begin with in the bus services sector (this). And, now, the Congress government in Maharashtra has taken bold to privatize water supply services in the city of Nagpur (this).
The government service providers, including our own BMTC, have been seeing the writing on the wall, and are trying to change their outlook to becoming business oriented. Now, this is where a new set of problems have cropped up. Whereas, when there is competition, business orientation results primarily out of customer orientation, in a monopoly situation, the customers generally end up getting a raw deal.
Now, even with the proposed fare increases, BMTC will hardly be breaking even on its regular services, and consequently their progressive neglect at considerable cost to the common man. Though these services can also become profitable with improved operational efficiencies, and increased ridership through route rationalization etc, as recommended by various experts, BMTC cannot be bothered with implementing any of them due to its typical public sector approach. In addition, it is in effect keeping the huge non-Kannadiga resident as well as floating population out of its purview because of its having to pander to the language chauvinists by providing only Kannada destination boards, due to political considerations.
To compensate for all these losses, BMTC is now having to look at newer and newer avenues, though in the process they may be deviating totally from their original mandate. The increased contract services for schools and IT sector companies, etc are a part of all that. In addition now are the grandiose schemes of building the so-called TTMC's, again through a totally non-transparent process, with the main object of earning revenues through lease to Big Bazaar, etc, but camouflaged as passenger amenities. All that it is typically resulting in is a bus from J P Nagar, instead of going straight to Majestic via the Minerva circle, being routed through the K H road TTMC in order to provide more custom to Big Bazar, but in the process causing delay and resultant hardship to the passenger. In the very first place, BMTC's rights over these huge chunks of valuable real estate in the heart of the city are themselves questionable. To add to that, is the matter of taking BBMP's permission for constructing them, and paying of property taxes, which have been conveniently ignored.
Before the Vayu Vajra services started, the BMTC was already operating about 50 VOLVO buses on 10 different routes. With close to Rs 1 crore investment on each bus, and proportionately costly spare parts, added to their own natural public sector operational inefficiencies, the services were incurring huge losses. Under the circumstances, the only reason they took up the Vayu Vajra services, was to thwart the entry of the private sector, which they realised if allowed to gain a foot-hold, will eventually prove their nemesis, unless they learn to compete. But, competition will mean the undermining of the many long existing vested interests, and the babudom involved is desperate to protect them. The politician, being new, has either not realised this, or has been co-opted by the babudom, as in the earlier dispensation.
The scenario is as straight-forward as that, and the challenge before the public, particularly the civil society, is to have this whole monopoly regime dismantled. After all, what government should be bothered about is providing a fair deal to the common man, and not the survival of a public sector undertaking at the cost of the common man. And, if they can compete, they can not only survive, but even flourish.
(Also Related - this poll)