Public transportation may resume soon with guidelines: Nitin Gadkari

NEW DELHI: Public transportation services may resume operations soon, and the government is developing guidelines for safe use that adheres to social distancing standards to control the spread of the coronavirus, Union minister Nitin Gadkari he said Wednesday.

Public transport is likely to resume soon ... The guidelines will be there, said the Minister of Road, Motorway and MSME Transport, Gadkari, addressing members of the Confederation of Indian Bus and Bus Operators through a video conference.

He said that the opening of transport and highways will contribute greatly to instilling confidence among the public and warned about maintaining social distance and adopting all security measures, such as hand washing, disinfection, face masks, etc. , while operating buses and automobiles.

Calling for a financial bailout for the passenger transport industry, Gadkari said the government is fully aware of its problems and will support them to mitigate them.

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

The minister also called on investors and industry to turn the coronavirus-induced crisis into an opportunity by occupying a larger global market.

The economy is facing a crisis due to the coronavirus outbreak ... We must treat it as a blessing in disguise since no one wants to deal with China. Japan's prime minister is facilitating the industry there to make investments outside of China ... It is an opportunity to boost the Indian economy, the minister said.

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He said that Indian industry should take this opportunity to invite these foreign companies to invest with them in India. He expressed his confidence that the country and its industry together will win the two battles, that of the coronavirus and that of the economic slowdown.

In response to concerns raised by operators, the minister reported that his ministry is seeking to adopt the London public transport model, where government funding is minimal and private investment is promoted.

He also pointed to the low standards of Indian bus and truck bodies, which he said work only for 5-7 years, while European models last up to 15 years.

Gadkari emphasized the adoption of good practices by European operators, which will also be economically viable for the indigenous industry in the long term.

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

Confederation members made suggestions for improving the condition of public transportation, including extending interest payment exemptions, restarting public transportation, extending the life limit, deferring state taxes, extending the benefits of Micro, Small, and Medium-sized companies (MSME), extend the validity of the insurance policy, etc.

The minister also said the insurance sector should come forward to help, as it has benefited from fewer accidents during the shutdown.

He also said that work on many highway projects has resumed.