What killed Abhishek Rawat?

Abhishek Rawat, a college student, became 'Blueline
victim' on Wednesday after he was hit by a Blueline
bus at Badarpur terminal and made it to Apollo
hospital 15 minutes too late. It had taken his friends
15 minutes to persuade an auto driver and the auto
driver 25 minutes to traverse 2.5 kilometers through
the jam of buses at the terminal.
[do read:

So what killed Abhishek Rawat? Reckless Blueline?
Reluctant Auto-driver? Bus Jam?

Reckless Blueline. A reckless driver would undoubtedly
be guilty, the Reckless Blueline is guilty as a class.
We all 'know' -- even if we have never traveled in it
or been witness to its recklessness -- how reckless it
can be. And what else do we know? The Blueline is a
product of Delhi's first round of infrastructure
privatization, become major economic activity for
disgruntled descendants of Delhi's erstwhile land
owners whom planned development -- in name of which
they were dispossessed of their land for greater
common good -- continues to bypass, explicit statutory
planned development provisions for their benefit
notwithstanding. A home-grown arbitrarily
self-regulating system, the Blueline is far cry from
slick images of efficiency that the privatization
mantra conjures. Unlike, say, the bijli thekedari
system of the same privatization genre, it is not
pervasively exploitative because it is not
monopolistic, but the points at which it does fail are
lethal. Traffic Police seems to have sent in 2003
details of 312 Blueline buses involved in multiple
accidents, LG ordered in January 2004 they be
disciplined and 9 licenses and bus permits have since
been suspended. We claim we want Blueline disciplined,
but enjoy as good-service the benefits of its
indiscipline, such as when we board from the front or
even where there is no bus-stop. Dare I ask if the
driver of the Blueline that hit Abhishek Rawat
featured on the list of 312 and if the facts of the
instant case undeniably prove that he was indeed being

Reluctant Auto-driver. A reluctant auto driver in such
a situation would be guilty, but we all 'know' -- with
or without personal experience -- that Delhi's auto
drivers are reluctant as a class. And what else do we
know? They drove autos with diesel and mechanical
metres. Some were crooked, so some of us decided to
discipline them all in our bhagidari with our
government and through our PIL in our courts. Now they
have CNG and electronic meters and everyone is
unhappier. The more we demand they be disciplined, the
more reluctant they seem to get. Willing ones go
unsung. Among friends I made in Pushta this year was
Alam Khan, auto-driver rewarded 20 years ago by Police
for recovery of two minor girls. He made no news, nor
any bones about this. (I got to know because he was
denied resettlement and I was writing his
representation based on documents he had). He and
others -- such as one whose auto hit the verge after
the axel broke and both of us got a wee bit hurt and
chatted as I waited to ensure that cops someone had
called did not get nasty with him -- have told me they
no longer go out of their way to help since that
attracts suspicion rather than appreciation, while
their own distress attracts no help. Dare I ask if the
auto driver(s) that refused to take Abhishek Rawat to
hospital were chronically or just lately reluctant?
And if other modes of transport -- including those
parked in his college -- were also reluctant?

Bus Jam. Badarpur bus terminal, reportedly located in
front of high-profile Rai University and NIILM
University and shifted from one side of NH8 to its
centre six months ago and unconnected to the sides
even by zebra crossing is, of course, case of very bad
terminus design. But there is more to this Bus Jam.
Why was the Bus terminal shifted to the middle of the
highway, considering that a site for it is duly
earmarked on the side in the statutory Zonal Plan? How
much of the Bus Jam owes to illegal landuse, such as
commercial development in industrial area
(regularization of which was proposed by LG in 2002),
resettlement at Haryana border (instead of mandatory
integration of EWS housing within the Zone), etc? And
how come the Bus terminal is located in front of two
colleges, considering there is no legal site for a
college in this industrial and warehousing area along
the highway? Dare I ask if Abhishek Rawat would have
been caught in a lethal jam even if his college were
on a legal site? And if the ire of his college mates
who pelted stones at buses and their angst about lack
of even zebra crossing in front of their college (on
the highway) were not miserably misguided?

It is not my case that Reckless Blueline, Reluctant
Auto-driver and Bus Jam did not have a hand in the
instant tragedy, essential facts of which I do not
know. But it is my case that insistence that an ache
killed a terminal tumour patient is no case at all.
The reality of our transport problems ceases to be
benign symptom when we insist it is causality and
punish it while letting, with willing suspension of
disbelief, merchants endlessly sell us dreams of cures
by pills of fancy flyovers, plush high capacity buses,
plusher metro, BOT bus depots, toll roads and bridges,
gizmo parking, cars to match, along with pills of
disciplining measures for what gets in their way and
the mess they inevitably create.

There is a prima-facie case that transport investments
we are recklessly making can not stand up to any
serious scrutiny. There is also clear case that they
are distorting development to the point of making it
utterly unsustainable and driving the city to
bankruptcy, a case that flows easily from one of World
Bank's chapatti diagrams (that, I understand, is what
pie-charts are now called) about urban investments,
with three quarters for transport. We are headed there
in Delhi, with master plan guidelines, byelaw reform,
assorted projects and schemes, anti-planning tirade,
etc, consistent with imperatives set out for us in one
World Bank study concluded in collaboration with Delhi
and Central Government and select civil society, a
study that also states (with no basis in its ToR or
findings) that long-term holistic planning (master
plan) is outdated concept.

The pace of investments in so-called transport
solutions leaves one breathless. Abhishek Rawat
breathed his last atop one of these because pace of
his transport was no more than 2.5 km in 25 minutes.
Pill-merchants must be writing post-facto post-mortem
prescriptions to keep pace in their running hard so we
stand still. The pace of all this dynamic development
is what killed Abhishek Rawat, like it killed victims
of backlog on implementation of mandatory holistic
city-wellbeing insurances, mistakenly called victims
of accidents, in non-conforming industries, in slums,
on pavements, in derelict schools. Abhishek Rawat was
not one of them poor, but his obituary belongs with
theirs -- in the requiem being eagerly written for our
cities and our urban institutions and professions, all
being made incurable pill-addicts.

Gita Dewan Verma / Planner / 21.05.04

Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Domains ? Claim yours for only $14.70/year

Partial thread listing: