ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Review of Twelfth Plan Proposals for Urban Transport

The Twelfth Five-Year Plan aims to foster more inclusive and sustainable growth. Urban transport finds mention in its chapters on sustainable development, environment, and urban development, which focus not only on aspects of public transport, but also urban planning and governance. Identifying the three main themes that emerge from the Plan's recommendations, this paper takes a critical look at them. It comments on what appears to be a significant divergence from the policy recommendations in the Plan and the Plan outlays, both in the first phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and what is proposed in the second phase, before going on to make specific recommendations on how matters could be improved.

Analysing the Urban Public Transport Policy Regime in India

The existence of the right policy regime is a precondition to any organisation achieving its objectives, and this is more so in the case of public transport systems. The central government announced the National Urban Transport Policy in 2006, a policy which aims to provide the appropriate framework for addressing transport-related challenges in India's cities. This paper examines the policy document and compares it with the policy regime now prevailing. Observing that the new policy has almost as many weaknesses as strengths, it points to the huge gap between the NUTP and the reality on the country's urban roads. It also suggests what could be done on the policy front to streamline urban public transport systems.

Ahmedabad's BRT System

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and the National Urban Transport Policy have given a boost to bus rapid transit systems in many Indian cities and Ahmedabad's Janmarg is the largest such network now in operation. This paper shows that while catering to latent transport demand, Janmarg has not promoted inclusivity or encouraged a shift away from private motorised transport. It has also given short shrift to non-motorised transport systems, which are important for inclusivity and for reducing the city's carbon footprint. The study raises the pertinent question of whether public transport ought to be viewed as a technological fix or as part of a wider solution of urban or social issues.

Car Sewa

Knowing full well that the private motor car is more a bane than a boon in terms of the various costs it entails, the time for policymakers in India to encourage greater use of public transport and non-motorised modes is past. Illustrating the politics of privileging car users over the vast majority that uses public transport like buses, this paper points to the vicissitudes the bus rapid transit system in Delhi has gone through from its introduction in 2005 to the present. Given that there is already little space and energy for more cars in India's cities, and the social and political problems they engender, the vicious cycle within which the system is trapped has to be broken. But that is easier said than done.

Accidents and Road Safety

Among all countries, India has the highest number of deaths due to road traffic-related accidents. Road accidents are the sixth leading cause of death in the country, and there were nearly 1,40,000 deaths from road accidents in 2012. Despite being a major public health issue that affects the most vulnerable and also the most productive sections of society, road safety has not received the attention it deserves. This paper discusses how the government has not recognised road safety as a key mobility, health, and equity issue, and has been slow in enacting legislation to establish the institutional mechanisms to promote it.

Is Public Interest Litigation an Appropriate Vehicle for Advancing Road Safety?

Public interest litigation has value as a tool for enhancing road safety. But it is unlikely to succeed if it asks courts to give directions to the government on a wide range of road safety policies, or if it asks for amendments to the law, or if it asks the judges to direct the government on desired legislation. It has a fair likelihood of success in a high court if the petitioners focus on aspects of road safety for which laws are already on the books but are not being enforced properly. The Supreme Court is likely to consider the issue favourably only if the petitioners make a convincing argument that unsafe roads have a negative impact on a fundamental constitutional right

Metro Rail and the City

There is overwhelming evidence to show that capital-intensive metro rail systems serve only a small proportion of the total trips in cities in developing countries such as India. Public-private partnerships have not been very successful, and the Delhi Metro, which is considered to be the most successful project despite falling far short of its projected number of users, enjoys numerous tax benefits not offered to the bus system, which carries at least five times more trips. Metro projects around the country are planned and implemented in isolation without any concern for feeder trips and other modes of transport. In short, the current regime seems to be biased towards the magnitude of capital required for construction of a metro system, rather than the magnitude of its benefits.

Urban Multiplicities

A recent two-day international workshop on the "Governance of Megacity Regions in India" in Mumbai revealed the multiple conceptions and contestations that drive metropolitan growth in India and around the world. Though cities globally face similar competitive pressures in an era of footloose capital flows, there were few readymade models of metropolitan governance on offer. Instead the international experience suggests that democratic processes matter as much as getting institutions right. Although questions of sustainability and resilience remained an intriguing but underexplored theme in the workshop, the increasing urgency of environmental governance agendas for India's megacity regions emerged as a key area for future research and policy.

(Un)Settling the City

The experience of displacement - of single and multiple evictions and resultant resettlement or homelessness - has defined the process of inhabitation for a vast majority of the poor in Delhi. Analyses suggest that at least 218 evictions have occurred between 1990 and 2007 in the capital, covering at least 60,000 households. Using analytical and geospatial data on the evictions that took place in this period, this paper seeks to answer some key questions and argues in support of policies that favour in situ upgrading over resettlement. The political challenges to this are discussed, particularly in the light of findings that evictions occur with similar intensity regardless of which political party is in power.

Revitalising Economies of Disassembly

In the last decade, reforms introduced by the Indo-German-Swiss e-Waste Initiative were meant to modernise and revitalise Bangalore's informal e-waste recycling sector. While the reforms rapidly transformed the circuits of e-waste recycling in the city, the outcomes have been less than ideal for informal recyclers. This article charts the changing role of informal e-waste recyclers in the wake of the introduction of reforms and shows how reforms disconnected a majority of informal recyclers - who have historically underwritten the costs of disposing the city's e-waste - from newly modernised circuits of e-waste recycling. In sum, it reveals that the reforms provided an impetus to "corporate privatisation" and undermined the extant network of "informal privatisation" of e-waste in Bangalore.

Biometric Marginality

Debates on India's Unique Identification Number project have so far been based on the analysis of economic data, emerging legal frameworks, policy procedure, and technology. This paper shifts the focus to examine the implementation of the UID project in sites of urban marginality. A study of homeless citizens demonstrates that the usages of UID have not shifted the goalposts but are developing along the lines of established citizen-state relationships in both the empowering and excluding dimensions of the UID. To capture the social impact of UID, debates must move beyond the notion that the transformative potential rests in technology or abstract policy and study the ways it is made available to people in their everyday life.

Protest, Politics, and the Middle Class in Varanasi

Looking at public protests in Varanasi, this paper focuses on associations representing four middle-class occupational groups - traders, lawyers, teachers, and doctors. It finds that they perceive the state to be unresponsive to formal, contained means of making demands, and see disruptive action as the quickest means to force it to deliver on its promise of good governance. The contentiousness is often highly politicised - bound up with political ambitions and rivalries, electoral expectations, and patronage relationships with political figures. There is also a strong element of assumed class privilege in the outrage that they bring to the street.

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