The DTC today justified in the Delhi High Court its decision to issue tender for procuring 1,000 standard buses even as it admitted that the low floor buses were more efficient and safe for passengers in comparison to the old ones.
The Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) claimed that it was trying to provide all facilities except wheel chair provision in its new standard size buses, to be procured, as required under the Persons with disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995.
The corporation made the submissions in an affidavit filed before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar while hearing a PIL by Nipun Malhotra challenging the Delhi government's decision of last year to procure 2,000 standard-floor buses at a cost of Rs 300 crore.
Malhotra, who suffers from a locomotor disability, in an affidavit has said that according to the DTC's own data, low floor buses were safer than the standard floor ones. The affidavit, filed through advocate Jai Dehadrai, also claimed that the low floor buses were more efficient.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 14.
Claiming there was no disobedience of the high court's earlier order, the DTC said that there was no order of the high court asking it not to proceed with procurement of standard floor buses and it had floated a global tender for it on March 15.
Justifying the AAP government's decision to issue tender for procuring 1,000 standard floor buses, the DTC said they have all the advanced technology based safety features as available in the low floor buses which are currently being operated except clutch-free automatic transmission system.
"It is incorrect to say that the new standard floor buses are having the manual steering system. The new standard buses are having the provision of hydraulic power assisted re-circulating ball type steering for less fatigue to the driver," it said in the affidavit.
It said the corporation was taking every precaution to fulfill the mandate of the Supreme Court directing augmentation of public transport to at least 11,000 buses for the people of Delhi out of which approximately 5,500 are to be provided by the DTC and remaining by private operators through the cluster scheme operated by the Delhi government's transport department.
"The buses for which the tender has been issued besides being economical are eco-friendly with advanced technology based safety features. DTC is sensitive to the rights of differently-abled persons and therefore, have made an effort to bring these buses which are disabled friendly," it said.
The corporation said in its affidavit that the old standard buses being operated by it in 2008-09 were not having advanced technology features as low floor buses are having.
In 2009, DTC was having 3,149 old standard buses whereas low floor buses were only 656. After phasing out the old ones, the low floor buses increased to 3,781 in 2016, it said, adding that the reason for fall in fatal accident rate was due to induction of low floor buses with advanced technology based safety features.
The high court had earlier disapproved of the Delhi government's decision to issue a RFP for 1,000 standard floor buses on the grounds that they were neither disabled friendly, nor easily accessible by the aged and the children.
It had not approved of the time line given by the transport department to procure 1,000 electric low floor buses as the tender is proposed to be issued in June and the supply of vehicles will be after March 31 next year.
The petitioner had submitted that the transport department on February 28 had issued a fresh request for proposal (RFP) for 1,000 standard floor buses despite the high court asking it earlier not to take such a decision.
Advocate Aman Panwar, appearing for Congress leader Ajay Maken, had earlier told the court that the standard floor buses were not only unsafe, but were not easily accessible by elderly persons as well as small children.
Maken has also moved a plea opposing the Delhi government's proposal to procure standard floor buses.
The bench had earlier asked the AAP government not to go ahead with its tender to purchase standard floor buses for the national capital, saying it would not allow the procurement as it would lead to the violation of the fundamental rights of disabled persons who would find it difficult to access such vehicles.
The Centre had recently told the court, in an affidavit, that less than 10 per cent of the over 1.3 lakh buses run by state road transport undertakings have been found to be disabled friendly.
It had stated in the affidavit that by March this year only 10 per cent government-owned public transport needed to be accessible to disabled persons.
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