In all fairness

Dynamism should ideally hold the key to governance. But the approach of the Trinamul Congress, which is in power in West Bengal, towards the lacunae in the public transport system has not been dynamic enough. That could be because populism - the bane of objective policymaking - rules the core of the state government's interventions in the transportation segment. The chief minister has now proposed that dynamic pricing would be introduced to address the persistent demand of a fare hike by transport operators. This implies that the transport department could raise or lower fares in accordance with fluctuations in fuel prices. The decision is welcome: in fact, such a measure should have been brought into effect earlier. The price of diesel and petrol has increased exponentially in recent times. This was cited as the main reason by transport operators in support of their demand to raise prices. There is a case for the government to examine the matter of price revision more favourably. The transport segment - over 70 per cent of which is controlled by private concerns - has already expressed its unhappiness over the government's likely decision to raise fares by one rupee when diesel prices go up by nine rupees. It is true that higher fares are frowned upon because they add to citizens' woes. But fare revisions also need to be commensurate with fuel cost. It is thus a question of striking a fine balance.

What should encourage the government to keep fares flexible is the fact that citizens would not grudge a price that is agreeable to all stakeholders. This is because there is a collective demand for improving the quality of public transportation. A miserly rise in fares is not enough to cover the cost of overheads - fuel, salaries, insurance and repairs. Moreover, lower fares lead to a compromise in safety standards which, in turn, poses a risk to commuters. In Calcutta, mishaps have been reported on account of public vehicles plying on resoled tyres in a bid to cut expenses. The modernization of Calcutta's buses and taxis should also be hastened to tackle pollution. The World Health Organization says that Calcutta is the second-most-polluted metropolis in India. Raising fares incrementally is a small price to pay when it comes to securing public health.


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