Delhi High Court dismisses plea to scrap bus rapid transit corridors; state plans 14 more
“A DEVELOPED country is not one where the poor own cars. It is one where the rich use the public transport.” The High Court of Delhi said this on October 18, while dismissing the plea of non-profit Nyay Bhoomi to scrap the bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor in South Delhi.
The petition had contended that the 5.8 km corridor was causing inconvenience to the public. It had also sought permission for cars to use a lane on the corridor reserved for buses.
Upholding the principles of sustainable mobility, the court said, it is the principal purpose of a government to promote the interest of the general public rather than distribute public goods for restrictive private benefit. “A policy has to be evolved where people voluntarily switch over to public transport,” it added.
The court did not agree with the finding of the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) that traffic was smoother when the corridor was opened up for other motorised vehicles during a trial. Keeping in view the fact that road space cannot be augmented, the court said there is no option other than to put in place a good public transport system, with BRT being an integral part of it, for only then would the citizen of Delhi shift to public transport.
The judgement highlighted remedial measures suggested by government counsel K T S Tulsi that include construction of parallel roads to bypass the traffic from Saket. During the hearing the court clarified that “if the government policy is not offending any constitutional principle..., the Court cannot and should not out-step its limits and tinker with the policy decision of the executive functionary of the state”.
Vindication of government policy
Delhi’s transport minister Ramakant Goswami is reported to have hailed the judgement that states the Delhi government’s decision to pursue the project is not an “irrational decision”.
The government officials have agreed that the traffic congestion at the Chirag Delhi intersection will be addressed. Further reforms of BRT as well as the overall bus system are afoot.
Only a week ago Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had given her nod to 14 new BRT corridors across the capital. In the 2011-12 budget the Delhi government had set aside Rs 450 crore for the construction of BRT corridors, spanning over 228 kilometres.
Needed: second generation action
The judgement underscores that an active intervention by the Supreme Court in response to public interest petitions filed between 1998 and 2003 helped curb air pollution. Thereafter the city started losing out. Air pollution levels started rising again. “It is apparent that a second generation policy action is warranted,” the judgement notes. It acknowledges that traffic congestion is unbearable despite measures like increasing the length of the road network through widening, construction of flyovers or grade separators and introduction of Metro. If the current trend continues, by 2021 car ridership would increase by 106 per cent and bus ridership by only 28 per cent.
This car boom, says the court, is “akin to the population of herbivores in a forest going beyond the sustainable limits of the forest requiring some kind of culling. And since in a democracy it is not possible to physically seize cars and destroy them, the only democratic solution would be to dedicate road space to buses, which would move quick and fast and this would act as an incentive for people.”
The judgement makes the observation that two cars transport only three persons as against 60 to 70 persons in a bus during peak hours and around 40 persons during non-peak hours. A car commences and terminates its journey with the same 1.5 persons. But a bus would drop and pick up many persons en-route. The number of persons transported along the route would be as high as up to 200.
Though the CRRI report is controversial for lack of scientific robustness, it shows there has been an increase in bus users by 7 per cent after the introduction of BRT. Since 50 per cent people travel by buses, a dedicated lane for BRT is justified, says the court, criticising the disproportionately high government investments on roads and flyovers that benefit cars.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.