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India: SUM Net Press Release on the National Urban Transport Policy

10 November 2013

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SUM Net

Sustainable Urban Mobility Network

Press Release

November 8, 2013

New Delhi

SUM Net demands the process for revision of the NUTP needs to be far more consultative

National Urban Transport Policy should ideally emanate from a larger Urbanization Policy

Demanding to structurally separate the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) and JnNURM and making it a generic ’urban transport policy’ not linked with JnNURM or any such specific or time-bound funding mechanisms, SUM Net (Sustainable Urban Transport Network) recommends that the NUTP should look at urban transport in general, i.e. not just million plus cities, but also the whole gamut of cities as defined in the Census. SUM Net demands the process for revision of the NUTP needs to be far more consultative. Not only would this improve the quality of discussion around the policy, but the consultations themselves would serve to publicize the NUTP, which even 7 years after it came into effect, remains largely on paper. Some steps suggested are to translate the draft policy into all official languages, hold consultations at all million plus and other large cities in each State and make it available on the website of the Ministry for feedback.

Sanskriti Menon, SUM Net Secretariat head at Pune, says that while the magnitude of problems may be more severe in larger cities, the issues in the smaller cities are likely to get progressively worse and could be avoided through timely policy intervention and would benefit from broad directions that emanate from the NUTP. SUM Net has also written a letter to the Ministry of Urban Development suggesting that it should undertake a country-wide process of policy dialogue on urban transportation.

Given that Urban Transport is a state subject and many aspects of transport planning at the city level (such as the Police, RTO, Urban Planning, Pollution Control Boards etc.) are state-level agencies, SUM Net also thinks it is critical that States develop their own State Urban Transport Policies, which would be expected to follow the broad guidelines of the NUTP but can be catered to the specific needs and challenges of each individual state. States will address their own rates of urbanization, the number, size and capacity of their urban areas, and geographical status (for instance Kerala would be expected to deal with water transport, as opposed to Himachal Pradesh, which would consider issues related to being a hilly terrain) etc. SUTPs would allow States to better monitor projects and schemes in cities, set goals and put in place some time-bound programmes.

Eminent transport activist, particularly for the cause of Non Motorised Transport, Rajendra Ravi, also a SUM Net core member, says that in order to address the issue of coordination at the regional level the structures of MPCs and DPCs as specified in the 74th CAA should be adopted. This will cover not just large Metros, but also smaller cities, as well as their linkages to the peri-urban and rural areas beyond, which are critical components in any urban transport scenario. Ravi says the 74th CAA is very careful not to encroach upon the rights of urban local bodies, and is expected to help stitch together plans that emanate from the ULBs into a whole for the region. Hence it is not advocating top-down planning. Similarly, since cities themselves can cover large areas and populations, it is recommended that cities too develop their plans from smaller, that is ’ward level’ units, where participation of people/city councillors can take place. Sustainable urban transport is mostly about neighbourhood-level solutions, putting people at the centre. Neighbourhoods will be able to address issues such as parking, footpaths and cycle tracks, safe crossings, accessible bus stops, rickshaw/auto/taxi (and other such intermediate public transport) stands, school transport, street lighting, audits of public works, participation in ward-level budgeting etc. Cycle rickshaws also would need to be included in the ambit of the NUTP, currently conspicuously missing. Parking has been poorly crafted in the NUTP with an inherent contradiction and Para transit has not been defined and characterized in a rather limited context. Rajendra
Ravi says the NUTP fails to mention many cases where, with proper political support and capable administrators, public transport companies have made radical improvements, increasing revenue and expanding services at the same time. The right political climate and administrative will can often be a greater catalyst for improvement.

Ranjit Gadgil, a transport activist and SUM Net member from Pune, asserts that the National Urban Transport Policy should ideally emanate from a larger Urbanization Policy, which currently does not exist. The NUTP meanwhile states a Vision, which is more appropriate for cities, rather than a vision for Urban Transport. It would be better therefore to review the Vision and Objectives in this light. Further, objectives of the policy should avoid means to achieving the objectives, such as “Introducing ITS for traffic management”, since presumably a whole host of such technologies, chosen appropriately, would be needed and hence should not be construed as the only ways to achieve the policy objectives. In short the Policy should not be prescriptive, but only set the larger framework for sustainable urban transport.

Gadgil points out some other issues that find no mention in the NUTP and which must be corrected such as universal accessibility designs (disabled-friendly), gender friendly modes, services and planning (especially in light of the increasing incidents of violence against women in cities) and climate change. The NUTP should, in recognition of the Persons with Disabilities Act, as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which has been ratified by India, stress the need for all urban transport projects and systems to be universally accessible. While any new construction can be mandated to adhere to the appropriate guidelines (IRC/CPWD guidelines), there should also be a program to retrofit existing structures and make them disabled-friendly. Safety and accessibility for women should also be a prime concern in the NUTP and all public modes (public transport, IPT, bus stands/stations, parking lots etc.) should incorporate a minimum safety features. Finally, the NUTP should also align with the goals of the NMSH of the NAPCC and other carbon mitigation policies of the Govt. of India.

Rajendra Ravi also expresses a strong view against the heavy “privatization bias” in the NUTP, which relates to both the framing of public transport in terms of “profit/loss”, the estimation of requirement of funds for large infrastructure projects, the absence of proper mechanisms to manage private contracts and issues related to the performance, service delivery and safety of private operators and most importantly the issues of land monetization for funding projects. The public transport should be more efficient and take steps to reduce losses; the whole manner in which notions of ’profit/loss’ is being applied to public transport needs a serious revision. City public transport services cannot focus on profitability, as they must primarily focus on provision of services to the public.

Rajendra Ravi, Ranjit Gadgil and Sanskriti Menon can be contacted at 9868300216, 08805027186 and 09822455250 respectively.

With regards,

On behalf of SUM Net

Shree Prakash
09406614800

Rajendra Ravi

Sanskriti Menon

SUM Net Secretariat

C/o Institute for Democracy and Sustainability

SUM Net Secretariat

C/o Centre for Environment Education

Ground Floor G-24 Vijay Nagar

New Delhi 110 009

idsinitiative at gmail.com

Cell: 9868300216

A 10 Garden Estate, 167/1 Nagras Road, Aundh

Pune 411007

sumnetworkindia at gmail.com

Ph: 020 25887009, 25898447