COVID-19: Public transport may resume operations soon: Gadkari

Guidelines will be there, the minister said

58-Nitin-Gadkari Nitin Gadkari | Amey Mansabdar

Public transport services may resume operations soon and the government is formulating guidelines for safe usage adhering to social distancing norms to check the spread of coronavirus, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Wednesday.

"Public transport is likely to resume soon... Guidelines will be there," Road Transport, Highways and MSME Minister Gadkari said while addressing members of Bus and Car Operators Confederation of India through video conference.

He said opening of transport and highways will go a long way in instilling confidence among the public and cautioned towards maintaining social distancing and adopting all safety measures like hand wash, sanitising and face masks while operating buses and cars.

On demand of a bailout for passenger transport industry, Gadkari said the government is fully aware of their problems, and will fully support them to mitigate their issues.

He said he is in regular touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who are working overtime to uplift the economy during these difficult days of COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister also asked investors and the industry to convert the coronavirus-induced crisis into an opportunity by occupying larger global market.

"Economy is facing crisis due to coronavirus outbreak... We should treat it as blessing in disguise as no one wants to deal with China. Japan's PM is facilitating industry there to do investment out of China... It is a chance to boost Indian economy," the minister said.

He said, Indian industry should grasp this opportunity to invite those foreign companies to invest with them in India. He expressed confidence that the country and its industry will together win both the battles—the one with coronavirus, and the one with economic slowdown.

Responding to concerns raised by the operators, the minister informed that his ministry is looking at adopting the London model of public transport, where government funding is minimal and private investment is promoted.

He also pointed out towards the poor standards of Indian bus and truck bodies which he said, are functional for only 5-7 years, whereas the European models last for up to 15 years.

Gadkari emphasised upon adopting good practices from European operators, which will also be economically viable for indigenous industry in the longer run.

The minister said, he is aware of the tight financial condition of the Indian market during the ongoing pandemic. But, he said, all stakeholders will have to work together to combat it.

Members of the confederation made suggestions for improving the condition of public transport which include extending interest payment exemptions, restarting public transport, extending age life limit, deferring state taxes, extending Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) benefits, extending insurance policy validity, etc.

The minister also said that the insurance sector should come forward to help as it has benefitted due to less accidents during the lockdown.

He further said work on many highway projects has resumed.