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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Delhi's commuter agony
Frustrated Delhi commuters wait for transport
Commuters have to wait several hours for a bus
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By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News Online correspondent in Delhi
line

Sunita Nair has been at her local bus stop in a Delhi suburb since 0630.


I should be at my desk by 0900. But I rarely make it before 1100 or 120

Civil servant Shyamal Sarkar

Hoping to beat the rush hour, she hurriedly packed her daughter's school lunch and headed out.

Two hours later she is still waiting to board a bus to her office in central Delhi.

"The buses are arriving at intervals of 30 to 40 minutes," she says.

"But they are so crowded that I can't get in."

Frustration

Across India's capital city, home to more than 10 million people, commuters have been struggling to get to work.

With the bus fleet halved after the court order banning diesel buses, the wait is stretching everyone's patience.

Commuters try to get on a bus
Many are blaming government inaction for the chaos

Shyamal Sarkar, a civil servant, has spent the past two days in agony.

Nursing a bad leg, he's been stuck at the bus terminal for several hours each day, waiting for a relatively empty bus.

"I can't board a crowded bus with my bad leg," he says, shaking his head as he watches people fight to get on board already crowded buses.

"I should be at my desk by 0900. But I rarely make it before 1100 or 1200."

Many have been forced to use taxis or three-wheel scooter taxis.

But the ride comes at a cost.

"It's outrageous," says Vinita Garg, as she walks away in disgust after arguing with a taxi-driver.

"We're being fleeced. I am being asked to pay more than double the normal fare.

"That's far more than I can afford."

Anger

While most Delhi residents support the clean air campaign, they are angry with the government.


We knew 20 years ago that Delhi would be in the mess that it's in. Yet, the government chose to ignore the issue

Environmentalis C Marphatia

Vijay Kumar believes middle-class commuters have been unfairly targeted.

"Why are private car owners not asked to switch to CNG (compressed natural gas)?

"They can afford it. Buses and taxis make up only one per cent of Delhi traffic. So they can't be the only polluters," he says.

Shiv Prasad, who works in a government office, agrees.

"Those who drive cars are privileged. Why target the poor bus owners? They can barely afford to put their vehicles on the road."

'Government inaction'

Environmentalist C Marphatia says the problem has intensified because of government inaction and a strong transport lobby working to preserve its interests.

"We knew 20 years ago that Delhi would be in the mess that it's in. Yet, the government chose to ignore the issue.

A packed bus
Commuter frustration runs high

"Why do they have to wait for the court to act? It's only after petitions from people like us that things get done.

"Every time there's a move to switch to cleaner fuels, the transport industry lobbies to prevent it going through."

At the east Delhi bus terminal, a group of college students glance at their watches nervously.

They are running late and have to make it in time for college examinations.

"I've already changed three buses to try and get to college in time," says Manoj.

"The college authorities have told us that we will be let into the examination hall even if we're late.

"Hopefully it won't come to that," he says as he runs off to clamber into a crowded bus, with people hanging out of the bus door.

See also:

09 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gridlock in Delhi transport crisis
08 Apr 02 | South Asia
Delhi hit by transport chaos
18 Oct 01 | South Asia
Delhi gets more time to clean up
16 Feb 01 | South Asia
Green buses ordered in Delhi
09 Oct 98 | South Asia
Delhi chokes under pollution
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