UNION BUDGET TOUCHES UPON PUBLIC TRANSPORT BUT GIVES PUBLIC BUS SECTOR A MISS

The Union Budget of India has a vision of pollution free India with green Mother Eart and Blue Skies. It also has a vision for Make in India with particular emphasis on MSMEs startups , automobiles, electronics, fabs and batteries. The budget tries to encompass almost every aspect of public transport however misses out completely on the public bus sector other than from electric bus perspective. It mentions that new metro rail projects for a total route length of 300 kilometers have been approved during 2018-19 and about 210 kms metro lines have been operationalized and with this, 657 kms of metro rail network has become operational across the country. It also proposes to enhance metro railway initiatives by encouraging more PPP initiatives and ensuring completion of sanctioned works, while supporting Transit Oriented Development (TOD) to ensure commercial activity around transit hubs.

It also discusses about India’s first indigenously developed payment ecosystem for transport, based on National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) , this inter-operable transport card runs on RuPay card and would allow the holders to pay for their bus travel, toll taxes, parking charges, retail shopping and even withdraw money.

In the public bus transport domain it highlights that Phase-II of FAME Scheme, following approval of the Cabinet with an outlay of 10,000 crore for a period of 3 years, has commenced from 1st April, 2019. The main objective of the Scheme is to encourage faster adoption of Electric vehicles by way of offering upfront incentive on purchase of Electric vehicles and also by establishing the necessary charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The budget talks of mega investment in sunrise and advanced technology areas. In order to boost economic growth and Make in India, the government will launch a scheme to invite global companies through a transparent competitive bidding to set up mega-manufacturing plants in sunrise and advanced technology areas such as Solar Photo Voltaic cells, Lithium storage batteries, Solar electric charging infrastructure and provide them investment linked income tax exemptions under Income Tax Act, and other indirect tax benefits.

It also plans to give a boost to electric vehicles overall by envisioning India as a global hub of manufacturing of Electric Vehicles. Inclusion of Solar storage batteries and charging infrastructure in the above scheme will boost our efforts. GST council has already lowered the GST rate on electric vehicles from 12% to 5%.

While the budget does cover the public transport sector in leaps and bounds it does lack a robust scheme towards improving the public transportation of urban areas. No focus has been provided on mega public transportation projects other than metros. The public bus sector which is one of the economical way of providing public transportation to the country lacks adequate number of vehicles and supporting infrastructure. In a country wherein the public bus number is only 160,000 as against the requirement of 3 million buses as per MoRTH(2018) giving impetus to only 7000 buses through FAME scheme will be a drop in the ocean of huge gap that we have in public transportation.