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Ads Volvo buses illegal; but, BMTC carries on unmindful

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Regional Transport Authority officials never had it so tough. While they have managed to stop all private and government vehicles from displaying advertisements, they've found the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) a tough nut to crack. They're armed with an Act of law, a high court ruling and a Road Safety Authority (RSA) decision which prohibits display of ads on vehicles as these could distract other drivers. However BMTC buses, especially the Volvos, continue to display huge ads. What's worse, government ads with large photographs of chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and transport minister R Ashoka are on almost all buses plying towards IT corridor areas like Whitefield and Electronic City. Interestingly, BMTC managing director Syed Zameer Pasha says he's unaware of this blatant flouting of rules.

The RTOs decided not to give fitness certificates to Volvo buses with ads. That's when BMTC officials got creative. They used removable ad material without using glue. "Once they get the fitness certificate, they fix the ad back. What can we do about it?'' asked an RTO.

For the full report in the TOI, click here

The fact of the matter is that it was being carried out with the full knowledge of the top officials (except perhaps the MD, who unawareness is perhaps not confined to just this matter), who besides had come up with creative ways of flouting the law. They may have even bagged awards for such ingeneous ways of maximising revenue. And, now that the game stands exposed, will any action be taken against any of the officials involved? Will they even be pulled up? Absolutely no chance, if you ask me!

Well, here's clearly another good reason why the government agencies should be withdrawn from providing services, to the many other reasons that have already been discussed at length on PRAJA. Like I have repeatedly been saying, the government has the more important function of facilitation and regulation to perform, and when it becomes a player in addition, its functioning as the facilitator and regulator gets adversely affected.

Ideally, the government holding in BMTC and KSRTC should, in the matter of the next three years, be brought down to less than 25%. Of the balance, 10% may be issued on preference to employees, and the balance issued to public. Simultaneously, the sector should be opened out for competition from big ticket players. Bus services are too vital an infrastructure area not to have the benefit of the expertise and capacities of big players.

Muralidhar Rao

 

Comments

idontspam's picture

Road Safety Authority???

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They're armed with an Act of law, a high court ruling and a Road Safety Authority (RSA) decision which prohibits display of ads on vehicles as these could distract other drivers

 Road Safety Authority - What is that? How long has it been in existence? Is it a state of central authority?

Naveen's picture

Commercial exploitation - What's Wrong ?

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Having been nurtured in gandhian ways, we, as a nation are loathe to any form of commercialization, particularly when it involves public utilities. What's wrong with commercialization of some space on buses for ad revenues ? After all, aren't they providing vital services & could do with income to sustain such services ?

Step across to the east - Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong or anywhere else in the world including the Americas or Europe & commercialization of all possible ad spaces including those within & outside buses, trains, on flyovers, bridges, etc. are evident & govt /public institutions generate substantial revenues on the side to support such subsidized public services. Do they suffer from such alleged driver distractions there ?

This argument of driver distraction has it's origins in a case of the 1970s when a trailer bus had crashed into KG circle & it was argued in court that the ads on the overhead pedestrian bridge just before the circle had distracted the driver, though it had remained unproven & inconclusive.

As far as ads on buses go, the way they are grotesquely displayed just about anywhere & everywhere needs to be stamped out & the RSA must enforce guidelines as to where & how much area can be utilized for displaying ads on buses. A 335E volvo bus that is operating now is completely covered up in a painted ad colored white & looks more like a private bus, except that an LED that displays the route suggests that it's a BMTC bus. Such ugly depictions certainly need to be stamped out, no doubt.

We continue to produce regulations that empower one authority over the other for one-upmanship - a remnant of the license-permit-raj. If ads are completely banned, BMTC & others are bound to get around the rule & do things on the sly, & it's not surprising to come across articles such as the recent one in TOI.

The solution is to admit ads & prescribe where & how much area can be utilized for such depictions - not banning them entirely.

Mr Murali - your argument to seek privatization for this sounds lame again.

pdk's picture

Two angles

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There are two angles to the post I think:

1.  Ads on buses causing safety issues

2.  Flouting of rules by BMTC

Second point first.   If we take flouting of rules by any entity to support an argument against its structure of ownership, then we can argue till the cows come home. 

As for the ads on buses causing safety issues, there was an interesting campaign on London buses recently.  They carried a paid message : "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".  This message should've startled almost everyone who saw it and caused them to jump a bit, believers and atheists alike.  But there has been no observed increase in fatalities related to this in that city (as far as I know, glad to be proved wrong).

murali772's picture

matter of keeping the public trust

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@ Naveen

I had said this is another good reason - meaning, of course, that there are enough and more other, and in fact better reasons.

Further, the question that arises is what kind of a message is supposed to go out to the public when one government agency openly flouts the rules framed by another government agency (whether right or wrong is another argument), even while applying them strictly in respect of private players?

And, this is not an isolated case. Between BMTC and KSRTC, they engage hundreds of temporary workers, for years together, even for their key functions. And, there are plenty more of such instances.

If a government agency can't play by the rules, it has no business to be in the game, in the first place. It's a matter of keeping the public trust.

Would you call this line of reasoning also lame?
 

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

Valid points, but...

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@Murali,

what kind of a message is supposed to go out to the public when one government agency openly flouts the rules framed by another government agency even while applying them strictly in respect of private players?

Good point, but as I said, our regulatory mechanisms always appear to be in conflict with one another & never seem to be able to adhere to one another's directives strictly. I don't think private players are in full compliance either. They flout advertising norms just as badly. Clearly, if the rules do not permit any ad displays on buses (supposedly due to some bizzare concern about driver distractions), it's an overkill for nothing & one is bound to see transgressions like the case above - the real problems lie in loss of revenues here.

Between BMTC and KSRTC, they engage hundreds of temporary workers, for years together, even for their key functions. And, there are plenty more of such instances. If a government agency can't play by the rules, it has no business to be in the game, in the first place.

Temporary staff is all too common in any industry, whether private or public (& not just in this country alone) - BMTC or KSRTC are not exceptions here. Whilst I do support competition in city transport services, I am not convinced that concerns raised above lend support to the call for privatization since private parties will also be doing just the same, if not worse.

murali772's picture

question of moral authority

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@ Naveen

You seem to miss the point. The government's biggest job is to decide on policies, frame laws, and ensure compliance. But, when one of its wings openly flouts laws stipulated by another, what moral authority will it have to ensure compliance by others?

That private players also flout laws is no excuse for government players to follow suit, and in fact provide the lead.

If a government player needs support in the form of subsidy, concessions, etc for the operation to remain viable, it must pursue them. Whatever, flouting laws is a certain no-no.
 

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

The point was different

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Whatever, flouting laws is a certain no-no.

Sure, agreed. But what I do not agree with is that this can also be used as a plea to justify calls for privatization.

The logic for banning ads due to driver distraction is also questionable since it is a revenue stream that cannot be ignored with dubious justifications.

murali772's picture

how about this?

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But what I do not agree with is that this can also be used as a plea to justify calls for privatization.

Perhaps this would, at least to end the monopoly?
 

Muralidhar Rao
Naveen's picture

BSNL demands excessive

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Certainly - BSNL 's plea is way out of reason, I think.

murali772's picture

law unto themselves

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Government advts with large photographs of chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and transport minister R Ashoka were also part of the menace. Subsequently, prompt action from RTO followed and they refused to give fitness certificates to Volvo buses with ads. However, cases of BMTC officials using removable ad material without using glue came to forefront.

For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

Plainly, they are a law unto themselves - and that is I expect inevitable when the government is both the player (a monopoly at that) as well as the referee.

Muralidhar Rao


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