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"ConnectKaro" report

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My essential takeaways from "ConnectKaro" (workshop co-hosted by Embarq India, and World Resource Institute's centre for sustainable transport in India, in collaboration with DULT, on the 10th & 11th March):

A) The talk by Mr J P Gupta, IAS, Commissioner for Transport, Govt of Gujarat, in the opening session, was the highlight of the event as far as I was concerned. He stated that the biggest problem facing the bus transport servivces sector was the messed up licensing and regulatory regime prevailing in the country. Elaborating further, he stated that over 80% of the buses operated by the private players (almost across the country) are licensed as "contract carriages", whereas they operate as "stage carriages" in open violation of the relevant rules. And, it is not as if the government operators can meet the demand if the private players are not there. Very clearly, therefore, there is a dire need to review the entire licensing regime in order to attract good players into the field, and thereby improve the overall quality of services - more or less what I have been saying all along (here)

Oh boy, could I have asked for more! On the sidelines, thereafter, when I exchanged notes with him, he stated clearly that the entire problem stemmed from the lack of political will to bring about the needed changes. What he meant of course, but could not say in as many words being serving officer, was that the political class was holding up the entry of good private players into the field in order to protect their vested interests, even knowing very well that it was at enormous cost to public interest.

He offered to help my campaign for the opening up of the sector (check here)in whatever way he could.

B) During the session on "Transport Demand Management for Private Businesses", there were presentations by the commute facilitators for the IT industry personnel, from Bengaluru, Gurgaon and Pune. These are the transportation managers from the IT companies, who facilitate the commute of the company employees, in their tens of thousands, to and from their work place, on a daily basis, in the most optimum of ways. I would say that between them they have the intellectual property to run bus services for any city (and, not just city) in the country in the most efficient of ways. As such, if the sector were to be opened out to reputed private players, these professionals could very readily head these organisations, and provide the kind of services, whereby everyone, from the aam aadmi to the CEO, will be most happy to avail them, solving the traffic problems overnight.

C) During the session on "Role of Developers in Sustainable Mobility Solutions", I brought up the matter of how CREDAI is not helping the cause any, with many of its members, taking undue advantage of the flawed and incapacitated governance structures, are pursuing highly objectionable developments, worsening the sustainability scenario beyond all limits (check this). The de-activation of the "code of conduct" from the CREDAI web-site (check this), falling prey to the machinations of certain "crony capitalist" developers (rather marauders) is a clear indication of the organisation's degeneration.

D) I used the session on "Road Safety", to bring to focus the urgent need for "unified emergency response number" (check this). Dr Gururaj, Professor & Head, Nimhans, one of the key panelists, offered to check with the government as to where the proposal was stuck, and to take action to have it implemented speedily.

E) Rajesh Jagtiani made a presentation on "Cycle Day" (check this), about which Satya and Srinidhi can perhaps elaborate.

F) The chief guest and main speaker on the 2nd day's inaugural session was Mr Gil Penalosa, Exec Director 8-80 cities (as he calls himself - meaning cities that facilitate easy mobility for citizens in the age range of 8 & 80). His interview on ToI, may be accessed here.

Whenever, I get to raise a question and am required to introduce myself, I do that saying I am from Praja-RAAG, the people mooted and furthered the Bus Day, Cycle Day, Namma Railu, and such concepts. I have been noticing that that overall seems to resonate well with audiences at least in such gatherings.

Muralidhar Rao


idontspam's picture

8-80 what is it?

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Highlight of ConnectKaro was Gil Penelosa hands down. Very inspiring & sets the tone for mobility beyond cars.

Trying to get hold of recording of his talk will put it here soon meanwhile want to know what is 8-80? see here

murali772's picture

8-80 cities

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cities that facilitate easy mobility for citizens in the age range of 8 & 80

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

role of think-tanks

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An initiative launched a few years ago in the Electricity sector by WRI (World Resources Institute) along with Prayas (Pune), has been acclaimed to have led to many notable changes in the sector. Based on the same, Parisar (Pune) along with Embarq, is now proposing to replicate the exercise in the urban transport sector. I was invited to a half day workshop in Bangalore in connection with the same.

Now, what I learnt was that the power sector expert (who attended the workshop) was largely unaware of the transformation that had taken place in Delhi, particularly in the areas covered by Tata PDDL (check here), where losses have been brought down from the earlier 55% odd to less than 15% today, resulting in 99.9% system reliability, and at comparable tariff levels as say in Bangalore (for some 60% system reliability). Even the bit, he knew, he chose to underplay. As far as I can see, this is like ignoring the elephant in the room. If the approach is going to be such, I wonder what good the studies are going to do.

Likewise, was the approach to the transport sector study, ignoring again the fact of the governments' deliberate use of the license-permit raaj to keep out organised private sector players, a fact brought out by none less than Mr J P Gupta, IAS, Commissioner for Transport, Govt of Gujarat, mentioned in my opening post (above).

I don't doubt the sincerety of the people involved in these exercises. But, I feel they all are still afraid of being seen as "politically incorrect" if they even suggest privatisation/ outsourcing, in spite of India having given up on Nehruvian Socialism long ago, and these being largely youngsters. Perhaps, they could do some introspection, using this tool.

I am not for a moment saying that privatisation is the panacea to all of the problems afflicting the sector. But, it certainly takes care of a majority of the issues. The rest can then easily be tackled by the regulatory bodies, perhaps with inputs from the think-tanks like WRI, Embarq, etc. But, by ignoring this big ticket solution, the think-tanks are essentially lending themselves to get co-opted by the government mafia-like set-ups.

PS: Perhaps, that's the end of any invitation for me for such workshops :)))

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