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Vasant Kunj: Zero mobility

Joining a good college in Delhi University’s North Campus was Nikita Chawla’s biggest dream. She had always believed that whatever ‘college life’ Delhi University had to offer existed only in its North Campus.

delhi Updated: Aug 05, 2009 00:30 IST
Atul Mathur, Jatin Anand

Joining a good college in Delhi University’s North Campus was Nikita Chawla’s biggest dream. She had always believed that whatever ‘college life’ Delhi University had to offer existed only in its North Campus.

But four days of commuting by bus from her Vasant Kunj residence to the campus, to fill up admission forms, made Chawla face the reality.

“She came to me and asked that if she would spend 4-5 hours in going to college and coming back, when would she study,” said Chawla’s mother Monika, a resident of D-3 block.

“In fact, (lack of) transport facility has been a deciding factor in our life on a number of occasions,” said Monika Chawla.

Not only did Nikita Chawla finally opt for a non-North Campus college, her younger sister Harshita had to shift out of the prestigious Sri Ram School in Gurgaon to a neighbourhood school.

“Despite being a good athlete, Harshita could not participate in sports in her previous school. It was not easy to reach school early for morning practice or to return late. She now participates in several activities in her new school,” said Chawla.

Almost every family in Vasant Kunj has similar stories to relate. The bus service is abysmal and auto-rickshaws too few and too pricey.

Delhi Metro, which has connected several parts of Delhi, does not touch Vasant Kunj. The nearest Metro station on the upcoming Central Secretariat-Gurgaon line is also about 2 km away.

It is difficult to live in Vasant Kunj without a personal vehicle. Autos are the only alternative, “But they always over-charge. Tiffs with drivers are quite common here. It is relatively easier to take an auto out of Vasant Kunj, but finding one to bring you back is very difficult,” said Roshni Sharma, a Sector-D resident.

“Vasant Kunj is like a sub-city. But it lacks both inter-sector as well as intra-city transport. Finding a bus to go from one sector to another is as difficult as finding a bus to any other part of the city,” said AK Mehra, chairman, Federation of Residents’ Welfare Associations of Vasant Kunj.

According to Anil Sood, president, Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotion of National Awareness (a non-government social organisation), the official claim is that 19 buses ply on five bus routes in Vasant Kunj.

However, there is hardly any bus on routes other than number 604. Residents complain that even route 604 does not cover entire Vasant Kunj. Various pockets of Sector C and most pockets of Sector D are completely devoid of public transport.

Delhi Transport Corporation officials claim another 40 buses run on five routes passing through Vasant Kunj. But residents complain these buses run on very long routes and, by the time they reach Vasant Kunj, there is absolutely no space left in them.

“Although there is an urgent need for more routes and buses for Vasant Kunj, the problem can be solved to some extent if bus route number 604 is altered a little, and it starts covering the remaining part of Vasant Kunj too,” said Naveen Chowdhry, a resident of block C-8.

No wonder, almost every household in this sub-city has at least one car and many households have two to three, besides two-wheelers. Residents feel the government’s attempt to make public transport popular cannot succeed unless the existing system is improved.

“Every day, I take a detour of about eight kilometres to drop my wife at her Qutub Institutional Area office. If there were a direct bus to the area, she would have definitely commuted by bus,” said Shashank Nanda, resident of Sector A.

According to Amit Aggarwal, South Delhi convener of Urja, a residents’ organisation, the bus terminal at Mehrauli should be shifted towards Andheria Morh.

“With a Metro station coming up there, the integrated bus terminal would provide commuting options to residents and would also help in solving the transport problem in Vasant Kunj.”

Tuning in to the residents of Vasant Kunj

I often need to travel very short distances, for which buses are very convenient, but the only problem is that most of my time is spent in waiting for a bus to turn up. The frequency of bus service is very poor — generally once every 30 to 45 minutes. I can usually reach my destination by walking in that much time. What is the point of living in a posh locality if it does not even have a proper public transport network? The state government should seriously look into running buses in Vasant Kunj. Basic facilities should be ensured in every locality, posh or not.

—Yasir Khan, 32, shopkeeper

It’s a Herculean task to fetch my children from school. Although Vasant Kunj is one of the most prosperous areas of the city, there is no public transport connectivity to our block. I always pay Rs 30-50 extra to get autos to our block. The transport network within the area needs to be improved. Bus stops and auto stands should be built in every block.

—Gauri Sharma, 28, homemaker

As a student of medicine, I have my practical classes early in the morning, and I often spend most of that time waiting for a bus in Vasant Vihar. As a result, I end up missing my classes. Considering that Vasant Kunj is such an expensive neighborhood, it’s a shame that it does not enjoy even the basic facility of good public transport. I feel, the concerned authorities should take action in

this regard immediately and provide us with a usable public transport system.

—Kriti Kapoor, 23, medical student

I have recently shifted to Vasant Kunj, and when I moved in, I thought that all necessary facilities would be in place in this neighbourhood. However, I was disappointed. The area neither has a regular bus service nor does it have designated bus stops where one can wait for a bus. Finding autos is no less a challenge. All of this has made me invest in a car. Residents’ welfare associations should take up the issue with the state government.

—Ajay Kumar, 44, brand manager

I have just shifted to Delhi. Here in Vasant Kunj, I spend most of my time waiting for buses. There are no properly laid out bus stops, nor does it have bus routes stated anywhere. It takes me a lot of time to reach my office. The number of autos and buses should be increased as soon as possible, for easier commuting.

—Madhav Pandey, 36, gym instructor

Ride scooter or scoot from bed at 6 am to catch bus

Anil Chib (58) can’t do without his scooter. “You need a vehicle to get to the bus stop, if not all the way to your workplace,” said the teacher, who lives in C-9, Vasant Kunj.

With bus route 604 providing the only link with central Delhi, Vasant Kunj residents feel stranded.

“Not everyone in Vasant Kunj can afford a personal vehicle; areas like C-8 and C-9 are at the greatest disadvantage. Those who need to reach far-off areas like Noida have to wake up as early as 6 am,” said Chib.

Even getting around within Vasant Kunj is a problem. Residents find themselves at the mercy of auto rickshaws just to get to the bus stop.

“Irrespective of the time of day or the weather, people have no choice but to walk down to the bus stops, which are located at a considerable distance from their homes,” said Chib.

This is not only inconvenient but also dangerous for the women residents of the area.

“The bus stops are located on the main road; so you need to take an auto home. Sometimes, they refuse to go, and you have to walk back all the way. With Nelson Mandela Marg being crime-prone, women’s safety remains a major concern.”

Rest the car and change 3 buses to Noida? No way

Kartar Singh (36), would like to give the bus a try. “It’s just that I don’t usually see any buses on the road here,” said the financial expert, a resident of C-6, Vasant Kunj.

Singh travels by car to Noida everyday and usually gives his office staff a lift. “Otherwise, some of my staff in Vasant Kunj would need to change three buses to get to work: from Vasant Kunj to Mehrauli, thence to Nehru Place and finally a connecting bus to Noida.”

Singh said, contrary to Vasant Kunj’s ‘posh’ image, not every resident could afford a personal vehicle.

“Students of the municipal school where I teach have a hard time commuting everyday,” said Singh’s wife Archana (37), a teacher.

Lack of public transport has added to the area’s parking and traffic woes too.

“Most families would own a single car if only they had an alternative, like a good bus service or the Metro,” said Singh.

2 hours, 2 buses to return home from Kashmere Gate

Everyday, 72-year-old RK Bhatia changes two buses to reach his Vasant Kunj home from his shop at Kashmere Gate.

“There’s no alternative. I first take the 729 to Mahipalpur, and then a 717 to reach my home at C-1, Vasant Kunj,” said Bhatia.

The whole exercise costs him more than two hours.

“I close my shop around 6.30 pm but reach home only around 9 pm because finding buses to South Delhi during rush hour is a task in itself. Thank God for my two sons, who drop me at Kashmere Gate in the morning,” said Bhatia.

Although the frequency on route 604 is good, the buses are too crowded for senior citizens like Bhatia to board them.

“The bus is so crowded that I have to stand the whole hour-and-a-half that it takes to reach my home.”

Bhatia wondered why such a ‘posh’ neighbourhood was not connected to commercial hubs elsewhere in the city.

“We have to depend upon our own means to get to places like Noida and North Delhi, where most businesses are located; and also the railway stations and the bus terminus.”

Bhatia said, “We were promised an efficient transport system in the last elections. But nothing has happened.”

Grill Session

‘Service will improve once we have more buses in fleet’

RK Verma, Secretary (Transport), Government of Delhi talks to Atul Mathur.

Public transport is a major problem in Vasant Kunj. Your comment?

There are buses plying on some routes in Vasant Kunj but, yes, frequency of buses is not up to the mark. The problem is that we don’t have enough buses in our fleet. Delhi Transport Corporation is acquiring new low-floor and semi-low-floor buses. As soon as we have the buses, we will definitely strengthen our bus service in Vasant Kunj.

It is a common complaint that except route number 604, there are no buses on the other routes, and people are forced to travel by personal vehicles.

It is not that there are no buses on other routes. We are catering to the peak hour traffic well. But yes, frequency of buses is indeed a problem. We have to improve frequency of buses in that area. Once we have buses, and they are visible on road, the people will have more confidence in the public transport system and would definitely prefer travelling by buses to using their cars.

What are your plans to improve bus service in that area?

In areas where passenger volume is high — Dwarka and Vasant Kunj — we want to raise bus frequency to 5 to 10 minutes. We will have enough buses in six months and bus service would improve considerably in Vasant Kunj by then.

Residents of Vasant Kunj largely depend on three-wheelers. But auto-drivers tend to over-charge and residents have arguments with them everyday. Is there a permanent solution to this problem?

We do carry out regular drives against auto-rickshaws that refuse to go by the meter or over-charge passengers. We are now trying to work out a permanent solution to this problem. There is a proposal to install global positioning system devices in autos. We will surely have a plan to check this problem.

What are the transport department’s plans to improve overall public transport in Vasant Kunj?

We have already commissioned a study to Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES), to analyse the transport problem in Delhi and suggest an integrated transport plan for the entire city. There is a proposal for light rail transit system in the Vasant Kunj area.