What, according to you, are the best achievements of Gujarat government in providing road infrastructure apart from BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System)?
BRTS in Ahmedabad sector comes under the Municipal Corporation while the R & B (Roads & Building) department looks after the overall work of road facility in entire Gujarat. We are told by all guests coming to Gujarat from outside that our roads are the best in the country. It is not just the National Highways, State Highways and Expressways that connect big cities with districts, our rural roads are very good too. All of Gujarat’s 18,000 villages are connected via pucca roads. The state’s geographical expanse includes hilly areas, flat areas, regions near the sea and big desert zones like Kachchh. Whatever the type of geographical area, the Gujarat government has connected all with roads.
The areas within cities that are governed by municipal corporations or municipalities have very good roads – two lanes, four lanes and six lane roads. These are not confined just to the cities but also extend to the city’s periphery. Ahmedabad’s ring road too connects Ahmedabad’s population with Gandhinagar and other districts. Ahmedabad’s commercial traffic and daily traffic flows from the ring road. Hence, the city doesn’t face traffic jams. We have made many toll roads that enable commercial traffic to pass in large numbers easily.
Ahmedabad BRTS is the only successful BRTS in the entire country. What is the reason for this success – was your vision right or did the ease in land acquisition help you? It is presumed outside the state that Gujarat doesn’t face the problem of scarcity of land.
It is not true. We do face scarcity of land. Today Gujarat has become a developed state with new projects entering it every day. Hence, its land is in demand in industrial, commercial, agricultural and service sectors. As compared with other states, the cost of land has increased more in Gujarat. Ahmedabad being an old city, it was not easy to take out the BRTS route in it. But the government’s support, will power, our planning, our study of other states’ BRTS projects like that of Delhi, etc., played a big role in our success. Our officers studied the other experiments very well and also probed into the reasons why they failed. We could achieve success since our planning was done after this study. Since we had to acquire private land and raze many houses, we gave houses and shops to those who lost them to this project along with providing many other facilities. We were very clear that people shouldn’t be troubled much in the process of our land acquisition. Also, we had acquired land for a four-lane road earlier. That too benefitted us.
We have approved a four-lane, 75km long Ring Road this year for Surat. Its alignment has been finalised. Surat City, Surat Authority area and Panchayat will be covered and the entire city will be benefitted by this.
Our follow up and review system, all over the state, is very good. Our Chief Minister Narendra Modi reviews all the big projects of any city or department personally. He views their presentations and even guides them. And if the need be, he himself visits the site and offers them advice. So, his personal review and follow up too proved very beneficial for BRTS. The success of BRTS in Ahmedabad has been encouraging for us and our Corporation. We feel that if this route has become successful then the entire project, when completed, will be successful too.
How much area will the second phase of BRTS cover?
The first phase, which is complete and operational in Ahmedabad, covers 45km. Buses run on it daily. Now we have moved to Phase Two in which the route will be expanded further by 40km. The work on it is on and it will soon become operational. We will take up the work of the 40km long third phase in 2014-15 and complete it in the same year. This will cover far off areas. The total area covered by Ahmedabad BRTS will thus be 125km and it will connect lakhs of people within Ahmedabad, and Ahmedabad with Gandhinagar, adjoining villages and the neighbourhood. This way, we will be able to provide mass transportation system to people and enable them to reach their destinations very fast. Even regular AMTS buses run in Ahmedabad. BRTS fares are slightly higher because of the facilities it provides. To reach their destination faster with good facilities, people have to pay a little extra.
Then will you concentrate on Surat first or will you simultaneously take up BRTS projects in other cities too?
The work in Surat has already begun. Work has simultaneously begun on Rajkot and Vadodara BRTS too. We began our road construction in Surat by using our existing land. The work in all the three places has been done on PPP mode by entering into public private partnership of the government, corporation and the transporter. We have a combined formula for this. The private companies run the buses while we make available the routes and fix the fares. So the public transport system runs on private buses. The response has been good.
On the other hand, our state bus service is very good in rural areas. Not a single village in Gujarat has been left out of the purview of the State Transport buses whether they get passengers or not. Unlike other states where the driver doesn’t start the bus till it is full, our buses start dot on time whether they get 10 passengers or 50. We have given subsidies to students, women, the disabled, socially weaker sections and the needy. Though State Transport incurs losses in this, Gujarat government supports it to run these services.
Also, we have made provision to start local bus services in our municipalities. We have also made provision for our municipalities to start internal bus services or offer bus services on Ring Roads this year. These will be in the industrial areas or area which have many factories because people from cities and villages frequent these areas.
After Ahmedabad, Surat seems to be your focus area. Along with BRTS, you are planning to construct Ring Roads in it. What exactly are your plans for Surat?
Ahmedabad already has Ring Roads. We have approved a similar 75km long four-lane Ring Road this year for Surat. Its alignment has been finalised and it will cover all the three – Surat City, Surat Authority area and Panchayat — thereby benefitting the entire city. Right now work is on for the 30km long Surat BRTS and we have begun purchasing buses for it. For 11km long Rajkot BRTS too, we have already placed order for purchasing buses. Till its buses arrive, we are providing the services to the people by taking buses on hire from private transporters. We are not waiting for the buses to arrive for providing the services.
Your Swarnim Yojana too is successful!
We don’t use just the central government’s money but the state government’s money too to bring about Gujarat’s development. It is all combined work. We celebrated Swarnim Jayanti (Golden Jubilee) on Gujarat’s completion of 50 years. At that time, CM Narendra Modi began a scheme of urban development for
र7000cr and the allocation was done immediately. We have already spent र4000cr from that. It will run till next year. And in this year’s budget too, we have approved र18000cr to be used in the next five years to increase and improve infrastructure development of all kind. We have already begun allocating money for this from the budget. Our schemes are not restricted to Ahmedabad or Surat or Vadodara or Corporation, we will allocate money to small municipalities too that look after a population of 18 to 20,000. Traffic is one of the focus areas in these projects.