Disabled-friendly transport: Delhi High Court disapproves of AAP government’s approach

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today castigated the AAP government for its “blinkered” approach towards ensuring disabled friendly public transportation in the national capital, saying procurement of low floor buses will not help if bus stops are inaccessible.

“Such a blinkered approach. What is the point of getting low floor buses (LFBs), if roads and bus stops are not disabled friendly,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.

The observation by the court came when the Delhi government said it was going to get 500 LFBs soon, as part of the first batch of the proposed procurement of 2,000 such vehicles, and was also exploring the possibility of installing mechanical lifts in standard floor buses (SFBs) to enable wheelchair-borne passengers to board them.

The Delhi government said there was a “dire need” for the buses in the city and, therefore, it needed permission to procure of 1,000 electric SFBs for which tenders were issued and successful bidders have been finalised.

The high court, by a June 1 order, had put on hold the procurement of standard floor buses.

The Delhi government, represented by additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose, told the court that it has spoken to Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, which were manufacturing the SFBs, about installing lifts in these buses, and Tata will have a prototype ready by September this year.

The court, however, asked, “Why only Tata or Ashok Leyland, when there may be several other players? Why not consider a global tender? Your tenders are so unworkable, why not change that?”

It said more than a year had gone by since the issue of proposed procurement of SFBs by Delhi government was challenged before it, but “nothing has moved” since then.

The Delhi government also told the bench that according to a survey conducted by the Delhi Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (DTIDCL), 960 out of the 1,690 bus queue shelters (bus stops) were disabled friendly and steps were being taken to make them accessible by differently-abled.

The court was hearing two petitions moved by Nipun Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability, challenging the tenders for standard-floor buses.

In his first PIL, filed through advocate Jai Dehadrai, Malhotra challenged the Delhi government’s decision of last year to procure 2,000 standard-floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.

Thereafter, he moved a second PIL against a second tender floated in March this year by the DTC and the Delhi government to procure 1,000 standard-floor buses.

During the hearing today, advocate Aman Panwar, representing Congress leader Ajay Maken, told the court that the Delhi government was not doing anything with regard to constructing multi-level parking lots for its buses and was instead asking for more land from DDA for the purpose.

Maken has intervened in the matter seeking directions to the Delhi government to augment its public transportation facilities.

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