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Your Space: Will Pune see one lakh new cyclists by end of 2018?

Hindustan Times has been closely following the progress of the Pune Bicycle Plan since its inception. This newspaper had also organised a Round Table with the participation of the top leaders of Pune Municipal Corporation and citizen activists to discuss and deliberate on various aspects of the project.

pune Updated: Feb 03, 2018 21:52 IST
HT Correspondent
According to Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, 1 lakh new cycles will be made available in the city by the end of 2018.
According to Pune municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar, 1 lakh new cycles will be made available in the city by the end of 2018.(HT FILE PHOTO)

This is with reference to the HT Round Table on the Pune Bicycle Plan (January 30, 2018).

Until the end of the discussion, the PMC did not identify the target group for which it is providing bicycle lanes. To say that there will be 1 lakh cyclists by the end of 2018 and 4 lakh cyclists in three years is as vague as it can be.

A well-defined and quantifiable objective is a basic requirement for the success of a project.

I had mentioned that the DPR (Detailed Project Report) is not proper, notwithstanding that it is in five volumes. Having a proper DPR is a major lesson from the failure of Pilot BRT project, which the PMC has not learnt.

I checked some facts during the tea break after the round table and the following conclusions were made:

•Locations from where surveys were done are not given. Only maps are there from which it is not possible to find out the locations. This is important for cross-checking the corridors to the specific survey carried out.

•Classified vehicle count (CVC) was not done. This is essential because cycles will be in competition with other modes of transport i.e two, three and four-wheelers. Where footpaths do not exist, the pedestrians too are in direct competition with bicycles. This survey will give the total number of vehicles and people using the road. A comparison with the capacity of the road will enable us to decide whether bicycles have a chance to survive the competition. Encroachments on the BRT lane have taken place precisely because classified vehicle count had not been taken. The same fate awaits the bicycle lanes.

Nagrik Chetna Manch (NCM) is of the view that corridors with heavy traffic should not have been chosen for bicycles and this is accurately gauged by taking a CVC survey. There is no way of knowing what PMC has done.

•Sample size for each of the surveys is not mentioned. What is mentioned is the total number of respondents i.e. 12,000. This is meaningless because this figure does not give the sample size. Industry practice is to have a 5 % sample size i.e. 5% of those crossing a particular point and this has to be for each type of respondent. A small sample size undermines the reliability of a survey and could easily put the planners on the wrong track.

•The classification of respondents has not been given.

The questionnaire given to the respondents is missing. This is essential to check whether the surveyors asked specific questions to elicit a particular type of response and whether the survey encompassed all the aspects.

-SCN Jatar, president, Nagrik Chetna Manch

Appropriate surveys were conducted

A point was made by SCN Jatar that proper surveys were not done before implementing the Pune Bicycle Plan. This is not in keeping with the facts. The following surveys were undertaken:

•Household survey stratified by income groups and population distribution across 144 wards as per census data

•Street survey of cyclists and non-cyclists spread across the city as well as a special survey along both Rainbow BRT corridors for assessing cycle usage potential for last mile connection

•Infrastructure audit of existing tracks

•Traffic count along arterial roads

•Land use survey including distribution of schools and colleges. As these are well distributed across the city, it is important to have a city wide network

•Online opinion survey

•Focus group discussions with school representatives, college youth, cyclist groups, corporates, cycle shops waste pickers and domestic workers as well as an observational survey of major addas

Sanskriti Menon, programme director, Centre for Science and Environment

PMC must improve efficiency; not propose tax hikes

As soon as the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) proposed a 15% increase in property tax for 2018-19, the Nagrik Chetna Manch had run from pillar to post to submit reasonable objections to the municipal commissioner, chairman of PMC standing committee, leaders of political parties, the house and the opposition in addition to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

We are happy to note that better sense has prevailed and the standing committee has rejected the proposal which was framed without any basis or rationale and appeared to be arbitrary and unilateral. PMC did not take the citizens into confidence to explain the reasons for the proposed increase in the tax. Further, expensive projects are in progress with new projects replacing old ones without a proper cost benefit analysis in place even after spending crores of public fund and amnesty given on demand from lobbies. The list is endless, leading to a lopsided budget.

Citizens pay property tax for the services rendered by the administration. However, currently, the situation is such that these services are not being rendered on a reasonable basis even as residents are ‘begging’ for them. This is a direct contravention of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Right to Life Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In the context of the constitutional provisions, reasonable conditions are embraced in the citizens’ right to life. The principles enshrined in Article 21 are to improve the quality of life of every citizen, make his or her life more meaningful and not merely be an existence for which, there is no alternative. For the infringement of the fundamental right under Article 21, a citizen can demand compensation apart from seeking the enforcement of the right according to PIL no. 71 of 2013 taken up suo moto by Bombay high court.

Here are areas where the PMC can control and balance income and expenditure:

1) Water: PMC should immediately ensure equitable supply, should stick to their distribution timings and should install pressure metres and gauges to measure the water inflow / outflow mechanically (24x7 project will happen, when it happens). By cutting illegal connections and imposing a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for pilferage, they can easily control the wastage of water. Currently, water distribution is lackadaisical and is based on how importantly placed the corporator of your area is. This also means that PMC has no way to measure and pay for what is supplied by the irrigation department. Such outright irregularity should not be acceptable.

2) Solid Waste Management: PMC can regulate waste management by immediately getting the state government to approve the public health and sanitation bye-laws (2016) so that a mechanism to manage solid waste can be put in place. When PMC gets aligned to the principle of ‘Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, Treat and Dispose’, it will ensure the better health of citizens and will reduce public littering. It will put an end to the wastage of public funds for activities that are unnecessary, such as the tipping fee, narrowing the choice of the third party D-T-D operators who often function at cross purposes. Waste can then be converted to combustible fuel or for generating electricity. It can also generate income by recycling wet waste to create rich organic manure and then selling it at a lower cost to farmers.

3) Power: PMC should set a target date for installing solar power plants to supply electricity to PMC properties and buildings. It should also device a method to digitise and generate energy or combustible fuel by treating the recycled waste.

4) Hawkers: PMC should effectively implement a scheme which can provide income to the corporation by renting places to categorised hawkers. It should also relocate hawkers who are often found illegally occupying footpaths, kerbs and side margins of roads and streets. Currently, hawkers are free loading on public space even though they earn quite a bit through their businesses.

5) Roads: PMC should start a road vigilance committee that would audit and control different road projects. The committee should ensure that the patchwork of roads are done with appropriate material and that the technique integrates with the rest of the materials used. If it is a mismatch, it often results in the abysmal condition of roads, streets, footpaths and leads to accidents and fatalities. It would also keep tabs on tenders and opened, defect liability clause and defect liability period of the contracts to ensure that the contractors repair the lapses at their expense.

6) Infrastructure: No infrastructure project should start before the pre-feasibility and feasibility report, detailed project report (with a cost benefit analysis and a 25-year future vision), environment impact assessment and socio- economic studies are completed. This will also avoid unnecessary delays in the completion of projects and the escalation in project and litigation cost midway through the project.

7) Ban parking at public spaces: PMC should also look at prohibiting and banning misuse of public spaces, roads and streets free of cost by commercial entities

8) GIS mapping: PMC should implement the GIS mapping project within a set deadline and should map all service lines, facilities and services. This will ensure that digging is not carried out at the wrong spot with PMC having to spend money for its repair.

9) Action against illegal structures: PMC should take strict action against encroachments, illegal structures and illegal sign boards at the perpetuators’ cost instead of repeatedly spending money from its pocket.

10) Digitising property tax: PMC should also look at digitising the collection of property tax and must stop amnesty schemes for defaulters, which is a loss to public coffers.

11) Digitising recovery of rentals and property tax: PMC should digitise the recovery of rentals and property tax and should bring them under the same roof for PMC’s leased properties. Currently, the land management department needs to gain control of its recoveries.

Apart from this, the PMC’s elected representatives should be generous enough to voluntarily put a cap on their own entertainment bills, fuel, and pension expenses. They should also stop tours within India and abroad.

Just as an ocean is made up of drops, in the same manner, the elected representatives and administrative officers should lead the way to address the multiple issues that plague Pune as it aspires for the Smart City tag.

The wish list is long, but for now, the above course correction will be acceptable to ensure that citizens get the basic amenities without paying taxes in excess.

Qaneez Sukhrani, civic and social activist