Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
The central government has for the last few years been promoting the use of electric buses (e-buses) for city transport in place of buses which use diesel as fuel to reduce pollution in big cities. It has floated a tender for 5,450 e-buses for 64 cities. The average price of an e-bus is Rs. 1.5 crore to Rs. 2 crore so the total value of the tender would be between Rs. 7,700 crore to Rs. 10,500 crore. E-bus producers like Tata Motor are of course very excited about this new business opportunity in the name of reducing pollution. Tata Motor has already received order for 3,600 e-buses.
The buses are, however, not being bought by the government undertakings. A new model has been proposed for this big order under which buses will be owned, operated and managed by the bus supplier for 12 years. This is nothing but the privatisation of the city transport. The high cost of e-buses and the use of new technology in e-buses has been used as an excuse to promote this new model of privatisation of the city transport.
As all the diesel buses get replaced by e-buses over the years, the entire city transport in all the major cities of the country will get privatised. Lakhs of drivers, conductors and workshop mechanics employed by state government run transport undertakings will be rendered jobless.
Many city transport undertakings have already resorted to the operation and maintenance of buses by private players.
The new model proposed would lead to the complete withdrawal of the government from its responsibility of providing affordable urban transport. Besides badly affecting lakhs of workers employed in these government owned undertakings, it will also affect crores of working people who daily use bus service to travel to and from their workplace.
While the adoption of e-buses is desirable for reducing pollution in cities, there is no justification for using this to privatise city transport which is an essential service for working people in cities.