ANAMIKA

'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On Privatization

Well, this is not an article on public economic policy written from a magisterial perch. This is ... well, let us get going...

Pune is reputed to have one of the worst public transport systems in the country. The service is run by the city government. Run-down buses, inadequate buses, unreasonable fares... it is a full list of woes. Of late, things have shown some improvement but...

Cochin is an urban area of comparable size (including long strings of satellite towns and urbanized villages radiating from the down-town Ernakulam area) and has, on the other hand, a fully privatized bus network (yes, allegedly commie Kerala). In rush-hours, the frequency of buses is impressive and their service is often impressive as well, with energetic 'kilis' canvassing and grabbing potential commuters with gusto. And the fares are considerably less than in Pune.

Last week. I touch down at Ernakulam railway station at 5 am and look for city buses to Tripunittura, a suburb about 9 kilometers away. No luck. The autowallahs ask for "150 bucks". I decide to walk, not all the way (the luggage is heavyish) but until the first city bus catches up with me which I could flag down... Cochin is a fairly early rising city and there are plenty people around... Almost hour later, I reach Vyttila junction (more than halfway to my destination) and having tired myself out (the weather has been rather humid, even in 'winter') stand among a group of nearly a dozen people and wait for the still pending first bus - which arrives just past 6 am, almost full.

Today. I reach Pune station at almost precisely 5 am. The weather is not very chilly, just energizingly cool. So, I decide to walk to my apartment, almost 7 kilometers away. The luggage begins to weigh me down after 2-3 kilometers (when was the last time I did some exercise for these ageing shoulders?) but I continue, ignoring a few autowallahs who hover around hopefully. At 6.15 I am home. And yes, I counted. No less than 6 city buses overtook me during the walk, at fairly regular intervals. They were all very sparsely filled and must have all been loss-making trips, even at the Pune bus rates.

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