Monday Musings: Will you vote for ‘national security’ or better PMPML?

Having decisively defeated Pakistan in the four wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999, a gigantic nation like India is adequately prepared to deal with any threat from a rouge state like Pakistan. And yet, ‘national security’ focused on Pakistan and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has become the dominant electoral issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

An emotional appeal has been made to first-time voters who number a decisive 15 million “to dedicate their vote” to the 40 jawans who were killed in the Pulwama terror strike in February.

‘National security’ is undoubtedly a highly emotive issue, just as ‘Ram Mandir’ was in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. The point is that real issues of development have been swept aside in the 2019 polls with the bogey of national security.

In Pune, for example, the most pressing issue is that of unsatisfactory public transport and people continue to suffer for want of adequate number of buses from the public transport body, the PMPML (Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd).

As recently pointed out by the NGO Parisar (‘City’s public bus transport in misery’, HT, April 19), Pune ought to have 55 buses per lakh population. In reality, the number is half of this. In fact, there has been a deterioration in the bus service in the last three years as pointed out by Parisar. For example, the number of buses on various routes dropped from 1,405 in 2016 to 1,357 in 2018. The number of serious accidents increased from 110 in 2016 to 140 in 2018 and there was no appreciable increase in the daily average number of commuters between 2016 to 2018.

The most shameful aspect of the PMPML services the number of old, rickety, over-used and unworthy buses that have been forcibly pressed into service by the authorities. One photograph carried by Hindustan Times on its front page with the caption ‘Shame on PMPML, Shame on our Politicians’ showed the rear, broken fender of a bus tied with a piece of string to keep it from falling! Imagine the accident that this could have caused on the roads.

Passengers suffer in such buses and they suffer further when these buses invariably break down on the roads. The additional traffic jam and congestion that they cause on the roads is a story of its own.

Such a service ought to be a matter of shame for the residents of Pune, its politicians and the over-rated IAS officers.

In our report of April 19, PMPML’s chairperson and managing director Nayana Gunde made a shocking admission on record: “Currently, we have over 400 buses whose life span is over and they are running on city routes…”

The situation is so pathetic that even the head of the PMPML has no qualms in stating plainly that as many as 400 buses that ought to be off the road are running on the city roads. Is this not hazardous and a violation of road safety norms? Why is the RTO (Regional Transport Office) allowing such a gross violation of road safety norms? Certainly, the PMPML, the RTO and the officials who head them, need to be pulled up by the courts for negligence of duty.

The irony is that while the people of Pune suffer in these buses, the BJP’s Lok Sabha aspirant Girish Bapat goes around in his Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, seeking votes from the very same people.

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First Published:
Apr 22, 2019 14:47 IST

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