Published On : Thu, Aug 29th, 2013

‘Star’ war in NMC: Parties play blame game over bus fare hike while citizens suffer

Nagpur News: Even as the fired up vegetable prices have made life difficult for the citizens, the unfair hike in Star bus fares has only added to the woes of commuters in Nagpur. Every day the people are being squeezed out of their pocket as they have to shell out almost double the amount for the route they travel regularly. However, both Opposition Congress and ruling BJP in Nagpur Municipal Corporation have instead waged a war of words over the issue, leading the result to net zero.

The opposition Congress has launched drive for roll back while the ruling party preferred to retaliate through words instead of initiating any concrete move to relieve citizens of abysmal fare hike. Leader of opposition in NMC Vikas Thakre has on Tuesday charged Mayor Anil Sole of playing smartly while letting the Star bus operating company Vansh Nimay Infraprojects to work on its whims and increase the fares. Thakre had also warned of stern agitation if the hike is not called off within a week. Reacting sharply over Thakre’s comments Mayor Anil Sole has on Wednesday asked Thakre to take back his allegations within 7 days else he would file defamation suit against Thakre.

Dubbing Thakre’s comments as irresponsible, Sole clarified, “We had always insisted the operator to provide the facilities in accordance with every fare hike. The company has been asked to repair the 45 buses lying in scrap and bring those to the roads. We have also instructed them to follow NMC directives as and when issued. We also do not support the recent fare hike, however, the policy decisions are always taken in NMC meeting hall. The opposition should show some interest in discussing the matter instead of taking to unconstitutional means.

Thakre had alleged that the ruling BJP in NMC had been reluctant in opposing fare hike right since the Star bus operator Vansh Nimay Infraprojects decided to burden the citizens with hiked fare from August 1. Opposition claimed the conspiracy theory behind delaying the fare hike by 26 days in view of the ongoing general meeting of NMC.

“Had they hiked it earlier then we would have certainly opposed it in general meeting. The ruling Congress smartly managed the operator Vansh Nimay to put fare hike on hold so that they can swiftly get off with the move,” Thakre had alleged on Tuesday.

Wardhane had on Tuesday expressed his inability to roll back the fare hike. Commenting on Wardhane’s stand, Sole said that NMC house is above everyone and its decision is abiding to all. He alleged that the discussion on star bus issue was scheduled in the last general meeting on August 19 but it could not happen as the opposition walked out on TDR issue. Thakre had met NMC Commissioner Shyam Wardhane on Tuesday and alleged that if Mayor Anil Sole has real clear intentions then he should clear the air by rolling back fare hike.

Switch to new operator

On the hind side, the condition of buses on road has tattered and badly need repairs. Large number of buses, most of which are granted to the private operator under JNNURM are put off streets for couple of months. The NMC administration on the other end is willing to appoint alternative bus operator as it does not contradicts to the agreement made with Vansh Nimay. The agreement states that a parallel operator can start plying buses on the same route already engaged by the existing operator. This means any operator can be given permit for Sitabuldi-Hingna route which is already operational.

Diminishing Star

Many of the star buses have gone completely non-functional while those running on streets have literally acquired bad shape. The contractor Vansh Nimay has certainly defaulted from its commitment to ply 570 buses across city, of which 240 was to be procured under JNNURM. On the contrary the operator has only 45 buses of its own while rest of the 125 buses was provided under JNNURM. Of the total 240 JNNURM buses, 100 were kept off roads for want of repairs. “They are completely non-functional now”, added Thakre.

Star agreement as per Cong’s consent : Datke

Meanwhile ruling party leader in NMC Praveen Datke alleged the agreement with star bus operator was made during the Congress regime. He recalled that after BJP came to power the then Mayor Devrao Umredkar had instructed NMC Commissioner Lokeshchandra, who was chairing the post then, to table the agreement in the NMC meeting. However, the NMC Commissioner had refused to do so. Datke informed that at that time an all party committee presided by Anil Sole has presented a report opposing star bus. He reiterated that the agreement with star bus was the result of Congress action and connivance.

–       By Rajeev Kushwaha