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Monday Musings: Wi-Fi in PMPML buses is not Smart

Is free Wi-Fi the need of the hour for PMPML which suffers from an acute shortfall in the quality of service on a number of fronts?

pune Updated: Jul 23, 2018 15:07 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
monday musings,pmpml,wi-fi
One only hopes that better sense prevails in our bureaucrats and elected corporators and their focus shifts to addressing the biggest priorities of the PMPML. (HT Photo)

Our city buses run by the Pune mahanagar parivahan mahamandal limited (PMPML) suffer from abysmally poor maintenance, often catching fire on the roads, extremely poor fleet strength and therefore poor frequency.

Due to this, the buses are packed and over-crowded at peak hours and frustrated commuters suffer as their patience is tested while waiting at bus stops. These buses are completely out of bounds for senior citizens who obviously cannot jostle with the crowds to get into a PMPML bus and then find a place to sit.

With such gross deficiencies staring in the face, the Pune smart city development corporation limited (PSCDCL) has proposed to install Wi-Fi on the 1500+ buses of the Pune mahanagar parivahan mahamandal limited (PMPML).

This proposal has been made by the PSCDCL, evidently, in its eagerness to turn Pune into a smart city as quickly as possible. With the arrival of the proposed 500 electric buses, the fleet strength will rise to 2,000 which means Wi-Fi – or free internet facility – on 2,000 city buses.

In the same breath, smart city corporation’s CEO Rajendra Jagtap stated on Friday that the entire cost would be borne by PSCDCL and therefore the PMPML should have no hesitation in accepting the proposal. Along with free internet, the PSCDCL will finance the installation of CCTV cameras, mobile charging docks, LED display systems and destination announcing systems.

No one doubts that the PMPML is in need of assistance from all quarters to improve its services. Jagtap’s gesture is, however, misplaced.

Is free Wi-Fi the need of the hour for PMPML which suffers from an acute shortfall in the quality of service on a number of fronts? Is this going to make any difference to the commuters who have been crying out for more buses with higher frequency for decades together? Is this not a wastage of public funds by the smart city corporation?

Within a day of this announcement, Pune traffic police released statistics revealing that within the first seven months of the current year, there were 1,942 PMPML bus breakdowns on the city roads. DCP (traffic) Sheshrao Suryavanshi noted that these breakdowns caused acute traffic jams in the city. He wanted the PMPML to take immediate corrective steps to reduce the number of breakdowns.

The PMPML does not dispute these findings and their own internal report has found that this transport service suffers from preventive maintenance in a very big way. It does not have enough technical manpower, systems and resources to ensure that the buses are in top running condition.

Additionally, the breakdowns are happening in a big way in the 650 odd buses taken on lease from private bus contractors. Does this mean that buses which are not road-worthy have been dumped on the PMPML by private players?

The commuters’ groups such as the PMP Pravasi Manch has rightly criticised the smart city proposal to introduce free Wi-Fi on the city buses. As the Pravasi Manch secretary Sanjay Shitole noted, PMPML’s priority should be to provide a robust and sustainable bus service not free Wi-Fi.

One only hopes that better sense prevails in our bureaucrats and elected corporators and their focus shifts to addressing the biggest priorities of the PMPML.

abhay.vaidya@htlive.com

First Published: Jul 23, 2018 15:06 IST