Chandigarh: The Captain Amarinder Singh government has decided to initiate a series of sweeping reforms to streamline the transport system in Punjab, with a new draft transport policy expected to be announced within two weeks and several measures to unshackle the public transport system from its current monopolistic control.

A review meeting of the transport department, chaired by Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, suggested a slew of initiatives to overhaul the ailing transport system in Punjab. These include restructuring of the 22 DTO offices and a more transparent system of permit allotment. The four RTA offices at Patiala, Jalandhar, Feorzepur and Bathinda will also be restructured to make them more seamless and hassle-free.

While examining the existing permits and their legality, the new transport policy, to be drafted through statewide consultations among various stakeholders, will seek to create a level playing field for private players while facilitating unemployed youth, an official spokesperson disclosed after the meeting.

The new policy, to be framed by May 15, 2017 as directed by the High Court, will affect 750 private bus route permits, 1840 extensions beyond 24 km of original routes and 6700 mini bus permits. Besides providing safe, convenient and good public transport, it will keep state transport as a stabiliser and provide a level playing field for private players, while facilitating unemployed youth.

The Chief Minister directed the department officials to professionalise the registration as well as license issuance and renewal services, apart from bringing the motor vehicle authorities more accountable by bringing them under the ambit of the SDMs. In order to streamline the licensing system, Captain Amarinder asked the department to expedite the process of digitization of licences and to examine the prospects of outsourcing driving tests.

The officials informed the meeting that the web-based applications are ready with NIC as SAARTHI for driving licenses and VAAHAN for registration and would become operational soon, according to the spokesperson.

Tariff and route rationalization would also be undertaken on priority basis to ensure that the public transport system in the state becomes more systematic, seamless and affordable, the meeting decided. The department was also directed to upgrade the buses to provide a comfortable travel option to the commuters.

Finance Minister Manpreet Badal suggested the introduction of a fleet of integrated coaches of elite buses to be operated on premier inter-city roads to end the monopoly of private operators on these routes. He also suggested installation of CCTV cameras in buses to enhance travel safety.

The Finance Minister expressed concern at the disparity in registration fee between Punjab and neighbouring states, causing private vehicle owners to opt for registration of their vehicles in other states. He advised the department to make a detailed assessment on this count to lower the disparity, which officials of the department said would be reduced once GST comes into force.

In line with the Congress manifesto promise, the meeting further decided that the transport department would provide one lakh taxis, commercial LCVs and other vehicles every year to the unemployed youth at subsidized rates. Under the `Apni Gaddi Apna Rozgar’ scheme, the state government will stand guarantee and no collateral would be required for the loan, which the youth would need to repay in five years. The department will tie up with major taxi operators such as Ola, Uber etc for the implementation of the scheme.

The department will also subsidize and incentivize youth entrepreneurs under the Yaari Enterprises scheme, as provided in the manifesto, to create employment through small enterprises promoted by two or more youth, it was decided.

The meeting also discussed issues relating to road safety, road infrastructure and enforcement of traffic rules and regulations.

The department officials revealed that the revenue growth in the state’s transport sector in the past 5-7 years had been around 7-8%, with a revenue collection of Rs. 873 crores from commercial vehicles and Rs.  676 crores from personal light vehicles during fiscal 2016-17.

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