Delhi chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is not an unreasonable person. Last week, she had stated that the Rs 60 crore Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor operationalised in Delhi would not be replicated in other parts of the city. Owing to the utter chaos that the BR has introduced into a part of the city that was relatively free of congestion, Ms Dikshit’s statement brought relief. But as we had argued in these columns before, the BRT system, brought in wholesale as a test case with little signs of adaptation to local conditions, has been an utter failure. On Tuesday, it went beyond being a failure and claimed its first casualty (six had died while it was being constructed) when the passenger of a bus had to amputate his toes when the vehicle crashed into the steel grill on the side of the road. We said it then, we say it now: dismantle the BRT now before such a bloody ‘anomaly’ becomes the norm.
When on Sunday, Ms Dikshit announced that the existing BRT is going to stay — with the ‘necessary’ changes required to make it an up and running and safe proposition — we understood that any turnaround is likely to look bad for the government. But with Tuesday’s ‘accident’ and growing public opposition, things will look much more worse for the government. The sudden discovery that there is no space for pedestrians in the whole set-up — especially with schools in the vicinity — was a classic case of noticing that the horse had once again bolted before any thought of closing the stable had occurred to anyone. Now, to make up for idiotic planning, there are plans to provide a walkway. But then we are forced to return over and over again to the real issue: why do we need the BRT at all? The answer trotted out each time is to ease the pressure of the rising traffic in the national capital especially as the Commonwealth Games draws nearer. Many of us were, in fact, happy to hear the implementation of such an approach — until we actually got to see what was in store.
Transporting a system wholesale from another city to Delhi without checking the nitty-gritty was not something one expected. And sure enough, with good money spent on the project, the government is chewing its lip about pulling the plug on it now. All we can say to Ms Dikshit is take it off our roads before more people get hurt. We promise to look the other way so that you can save your face.