Despite abnormal rise in fuel price and protest bandh by various political outfits, there is no fall in sale of vehicles. Residents in the state capital still want to own cars and bikes. The total number of vehicles in the city jumped to 10.80 lakhs in 2015 from a mere 3.09 lakh in the year 2001. Similarly, the state figure also posted a record increase. The total number of 2-wheelers in the state grew from 46.9 lakh in 2009 to 88.31 lakh in 2016. Similarly, the number of cars rose from 2.72 lakh to 6.37 lakh in the same period. According to official statistics, 1.11 crore vehicles (transport and non-transport) were registered in the state till March 31, 2016.
The state government’s revenue from sale of petrol and diesel is also on the rise. It grew from Rs 4,000 crore in 2011-12 to Rs 9,380 crore in 2017-18. Why this paradox? Why people are preferring to spend more and more on fuel rather than opting for alternatives? The answer, according to experts, is a multi-layered one. A retired IAS officer and president of Green Planet Bicycle Riders Association (GPBRA), Satyaprakash says: “Unless public transport system improves, people won’t go for private vehicles.”
According to Satyaprakash , if bicycle is not becoming the preferred mode of travel in the city, despite the big push being given to bicycle riding by the authorities, it is for want of a proper infrastructure. “Yes, cycle tracks have been built but they are haphazard. There is no connectivity. A person wanting to use a bicycle to travel from, say New Market to MP Nagar, he will have to ride amid vehicles at many places. Why would he compromise with his safety?”
Satyaprakash does not think that people are not using bicycles as they feel it lowers their status. Environmentalist Sunil Dubey ‘Vrikshamitra’ wants public transport should either be free or charges should be very nominal. He feels this is the only way to persuade people to switch to public transport. “Why would not people use a public transport to reach their workplace if it costs them nothing?” he asks.
Dubey says that the government is also not serious about promoting public transport. “Till some years back, the MPSRTC (Madhya Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation) buses carried employees working in Vallabh Bhavan Complex from various parts of the city to their office. “Just imagine, if thousands of employees working in the Secretariat and the Vindhyanchal and Satpura complexes come to their offices in buses, how many vehicles would remain off the roads?”he says.
Dubey says that due to lack of proper planning, people still prefer mini-buses over the BRTS. “Obviously, BRTS buses do not carry them where they want to go,” he says. Moreover, the mini-buses are in very bad shape. According to him, promoting e-vehicles can be a way of reducing expenditure on fuels and controlling air pollution.