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The old KMD buses and the new smart buses

It is high time to ask the private players to strengthen the public transport system Wheels
12:00 AM Apr 26, 2024 IST | Dr Muzafar Maqsood
the old kmd buses and the new smart buses
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It is pleasing to see the 'big' red buses plying on the city's squeezed' roads. Seems a big respite for huge populace who use public transport to commute. Hope these buses manage to run fine in the huge summer rush and in the long run ‘survive’.

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Kashmir is not new to the big bus bonanza; we had a huge and a perfect fleet of them. It is not that far; how can our memory forget the bus of 60s,70s and 80s within the city limits. The Kashmir Motor Drivers (KMD) or the RTC (Government) buses as they were lovingly and affectionately called was the transport of choice till the minibuses, Swaraj Mazdas, 407’s and later Sumos took over the of the road in late 80s.

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The transport sector of Kashmir was partly government owned (State Road Transport Corporation-SRTC) and partly private owned-which was named Western Stand for Baramulla and Sopore and KMD-eastern for Anantnag, Shopian, Kulgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal. Both these concerns had a big fleet and were a major player in the transport sector. In the years of their glory, they perhaps were doing much better than the official counterpart.

KMD as the public transport system was established in 1931, registered in 1958 as KMDA (Kashmir Motor Drivers Association) and had its first operation near the present Taj Hotel which later was shifted to the famous KMD bus stand adjacent to government press. The authorities had provided space for the huge fleet of KMDA at all districts (stand/adda). These were busy places, with commuters thronging ever day in huge numbers and was a business potential for many vendors. KMDA adda at Lal Chowk for buses plying within the districts/city, was partly shifted in 1977 to Batamallo (SDA area) for inter-district buses. In 2005 considering the heavy rush in the area the stand was shifted to Pantha Chowk - which proved to be a non-starter and later in 2017 it was shifted to its present day location - Parimpora.

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The KMD bus was of a particular style that was specifically and specially done at Jalandar. The body was set in different colors and the front, and the back decorated colourfully. Inscribed in bold on the sides was the name KMDA and its affiliation to any bank.

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The buses would ply between the northern states proximate to J&K, to the capital Delhi, regions of Jammu and Srinagar or inter-district within Kashmir, on routes specified within a district or even on routes within the city/ies. The routes were specified by a number and the timetable and schedule was diligently set for each day or week. No fail, come what may be. It was good in many senses but had an issue of frequent stops at the whim and wish of a driver, conductor or even the passenger, a flaw that was never corrected.

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For a variety of reasons, the KMD buses had to withdraw from the city roads. The reasons for the demise of this private entrepreneurship are many - with the worsening condition of 90’s and thereafter cited as the primary blow, the defunct and derecognized 350 odd buses in 2005, the pollution as they ran on diesel, the shifting of the stands and the permission for small vehicles to ply were some other reasons of its downfall. Moreover, the improved financial status of people allowing most to afford their own vehicles, the traffic mess that resulted as a result of jams, were the likely reasons that led the administration to stop KMD operating within the municipal limits. Much to the dismay of all.

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The lesser accommodative versions 407/swaraj mazda, sumo that were put into service did manage to cater initially but overtime they too had their own problems of space, timings, restrictions brought on by the regional transport officers and the changing motor vehicle acts and its aftermath. Because of this the general population had difficult time as far as commuting was concerned.

With the advance in technology, gone are the days of diesel; electric is the trend. Even in the most populated cities the city buses are still plying, be it our own Mumbai or the best of the cities- London (the electric variants). But in Kashmir the idea of maintaining the elegance, and keeping the heritage alive are far more complex. Hence for more than a decade the city never witnessed any buses plying on the erstwhile routes. But luckily under the smart city program comes the new red e-buses and day by day we are witnessing these smart buses across the length and breadth of the city much to the respite of a common man. Now that these buses are regularly run on various routes after a successful trial run it is high time to again ask the private players to strengthen the public transport system.

Going by the track record of the successful endeavour that KMDA was, it would have procured, and put the electric buses on routes way before the smart city project got these buses on the road. This may have required some help from authorities for KMDA has been in the worst of situations that we witnessed. With lot of stress on entrepreneurship, why don't we ask the already established and now dormant KMDA to start strengthening the public transport system, what is required to address the shortage of transport in our city and convince the general public to use the same so that less cars are seen on the roads. This can be done with due consultation with the transport, traffic, and the public distribution departments.

Let KMDA be back and alive.

Tail Piece-. Our smart Srinagar deserves smart vehicles and the red buses are smart. The autos of yesteryears were nice and presentable but for the fact that they ran on petrol made them a costly preposition for the commuters in general. Having e rickshaws could have solved the cost part but for their ugly look. Some cities in India are not permitting these ugly looking vehicles to ply as that would spoil the aesthetics of that city. In J&K, nowadays we have swarm of these, most of which are the double roti indigenous variants which lack the necessary aesthetic look and are vulnerable to wide variety of accidents. Our erstwhile autos had a presentable shape and their e-variants must be the ones more often seen on the roads rather than their ugly counter-parts.

Dr Muzafar Maqsood Wani, Consultant Nephrologist, SKIMS,Soura.

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