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Wheels of chaos: Vehicle ban on Panjab University campus a non-starter

The plan was conceived during the 2015 PU student elections when a majority of the students voted to ban four-wheelers from academic zones on the Sector 14 and Sector 25 campuses.

punjab Updated: Aug 08, 2018 13:37 IST
Arshdeep Arshi
Arshdeep Arshi
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Vehicle ban,Panjab University,vehicles on PU campus
Traffic chaos near the administration block of Panjab University is an everyday affair thanks to the rush of vehicles. (HT photo)

It was last year that Panjab University announced its decision to implement a ban on four-wheelers from the new session. The new session is here, but there is no sign of the ban.

Cars continue to be parked haphazardly on nearly every road on the campus and the academic area, which was to become a ‘vehicle-free zone’, is also full of wheels.

The plan was conceived during the 2015 PU student elections when a majority of the students voted to ban four-wheelers from academic zones on the Sector 14 and Sector 25 campuses.

The PU rules

The varsity authorities promised to do the needful. Their solution: to bar first-year students from bringing four-wheelers to the Sector 14 campus. On May 31, the Registrar, Col GS Chadha (retd) said all other students, faculty members and non-teaching staff with official stickers on their cars and with valid IDs would be able to bring their vehicles to the campus.

Outsiders and visitors would have to park them at designated parking spots at the entry gates. The academic areas were to be made vehicle free by putting up wicket gates at five entry points. But older faculty and women teachers who wore sarees would be allowed to drive in these areas too.

Reasons for PU’s failure

The implementation of the ban lies with the varsity’s security personnel and at present it is short of around 100 guards. The ministry of human resource development does not allow any new recruitment, and the matter of outsourcing them is pending with the syndicate.

Ashwani Koul, the Chief of University Security (CUS), said, “Services of 70 guards employed in Sector 25 got over in August 2017. Over the years, people have been retiring. No fresh recruitment has been done over the past many years.”

It is not a blanket ban. Only the first year students are barred from bringing cars to the campus. Students say it’s mostly seniors who bring four-wheelers to the campus. Koul said, “The motive is to slowly decongest the place. If we become strict on Gate No 1, there will be a road block in front of the PGIMER, which will cost the patients dearly.”

Koul says they don’t have enough parking spaces to implement the plan fully. “Our staff check vehicles daily and do not let anybody without a PU sticker enter the campus.”

There aren’t enough e-rickshaws on the campus, and of the five shuttle buses plying there, two are being phased out. The university is yet to purchase the 200 free cycles it had promised to provide even though it has the funds.

Above all, there is opposition from within. Koul said, “When we allow senior teachers to park inside the academic zones, junior teachers too want the same.”

Vehicle ban in other universities

Punjabi University, Patiala, implemented a blanket ban on four-wheelers after protests by students in 2015. No one is exempted from this ban. Arrangements for parking are made at the two gates from where students walk to their departments. Recently e-rickshaws have also been provided.

Those with disabilities or relatives of students who come to leave the baggage of hostellers are allowed entry once they leave the Registration Certificate (RC) of their vehicle at the gate.

Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, implemented the four-wheeler ban around three weeks ago. Dr Jagdish Kaur said, “It is a campus that is known for its greenery and therefore, the ban did not see any opposition. We allow two-wheelers as it is a very big campus. We have provided shuttle bus service, e-rickshaws and cycles (Rs 10 per hour) as an alternative to the students and visitors.”

Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, is in the process of implementing the ban.

The university has expanded its parking spaces and has created docks for cycles that are provided to the students through a monthly pass of Rs 175, accessible on a mobile app. Students are already using this service.

Be conscious about the environment

Professor Ronki Ram of political science department loves to pedal his way around the campus. He recalls that most teachers and students used to cycle here when he first came to PU as a student in 1983. “There were underground cycle sheds for parking near every hostel, which were either dismantled or turned into stores/shops later. Many of the departments too had cycle sheds near them,” recounts the professor.

When he returned as a teacher in 1995, the campus had changed but not too much. “The number of motorcycles and cars had increased but it wasn’t as jam-packed as now.”

Asked how he feels while cycling these days, he says, “You have to take care of yourself when cycling, but it is true for everyone. The rush is bad for everyone. We hear of more car accidents than cycle accidents. The change cannot happen unless people realise their role in society and contribution to the environment. I feel I should not deplete the environment”.

Face to Face with Col GS Chadha (Retd), Registrar

Why is the no-vehicle ban still not operational?

I really wish to see this campus vehicle free and have worked for it. But there are issues because of which we are unable to implement it. The buildings on this campus have been so designed by Pierre Jeanneret that the science departments are side by side. Same is with the arts departments. One can easily walk from one department to the other, but people want to go everywhere on their vehicle.

Why is the ban only for first year students?

It is for everyone, not just for the first year students. We have conveyed it to the security too. The old students have the stickers and we have stopped issuing any new stickers. The aim is to first make the academic block free of vehicles.

How do you plan to promote cycles?

We had planned to provide cycles to students. The Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited had credited Rs 12 Lakh to the university accounts for this purpose. However, it’s being argued that we must first ban the vehicles and then provide cycles.

Why is the ban successful in Panjabi University and GNDU?

Punjabi University and GNDU have borrowed this idea from PU only. These universities benefit from their architecture and the situation of the campus.

What are the challenges you face?

The university is short of 98 security guards. The UGC does not allow recruitment though we are working on it. Without proper manpower, it is difficult to implement the ban. At present, the guards are working overtime. There is resistance on the part of vehicle-users too. There is a large parking near the Aruna Ranjit Chandra Hall, which lies empty because people want to take their vehicles everywhere.

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 13:37 IST