Bengaluru Buzz: Few takers for Volvo buses | New rly terminal soon | Turahalli’s rising | … and more

Catch up on what happened in the city over the week in our roundup

Only 20% Volvos running

High operation costs and low revenues have forced the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation to scale down its air-conditioned bus services. It’s now running only 150 such buses as against the 760 before the pandemic. The daily revenue of the public transporter fell from Rs 3.5 crore to Rs 2.5 crore while the revenue from AC buses is less than 30% of what it was in 2019. The revenue from air-conditioned Volvo buses dropped even before the pandemic, after operation costs rose due to diesel price rise.

With most people avoiding public transport due to COVID-19, AC buses have a ridership of 20 to 25%. This despite the BMTC has reduced the fares in its fleet by 20%. Most people are working from home, only a few buses are running on once popular routes such as Outer Ring Road, Kadugodi, and Electronics City.

The fleet operating to the Kempegowda International Airport is seeing “moderate demand”. Around 60 buses are operated to the KIA every day, but the fares for these services were not reduced.

Ridership of regular non-AC buses has gradually increased over the months. At present, the BMTC is operating around 5,100 buses, generating operational revenue of ₹2.5 crore a day.

Source: Deccan Herald, The Hindu

New railway hub in Feb

The South Western Railway expects to complete pending work of the new Sir M Visvesvaraya Railway Terminal at Baiyyappanahalli by mid-February. The railway terminal, being built on the lines of the Kempegowda International Airport, is being projected as a future transport hub on the eastern side of the city. SWR plans to run long distance train services from the terminal to various destinations including Mumbai and Chennai. Officials are also thinking of running intra-state services from here.

The terminal will help decongest the centrally-located Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna City Railway Station and the Yeshwantpur railway station, located towards the city’s north-west. The new terminal, estimated to cost ₹314 crore, is spread to over 4,200 square metres and can handle passenger footfalls of 50,000 per day. It has seven platforms, eight stabling lines and three pit lines. It can handle 50 trains every day.

Source: The Hindu, The Times of India

Citizens rally for Turahalli

Citizens and environmentalists questioned the government’s plan to create a tree park in the 600-acre Turahalli forest on Kanakapura Road. Cleanup Turahalli, a group of volunteers, said that instead of investing in productive plans such as creating a sustainable water body in the forest, the government is looking to implement changes without consulting the public. They questioned the impact that increased human intervention will have on the numerous species of birds, animals and reptiles in the forest. Citizens are now appealing to those in power, including the Prime Minister, to let the forest be.

Source: The Hindu

Fluctuating COVID numbers

The rise and fall of COVID-19 numbers in the city has puzzled experts. While some cite low testing as the cause, others suggest that Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has become weaker. From January 1 to 13, the average case numbers were about 400 per day. However, on January 8, numbers rose to 479 and consistently remained above 450 for the next two days, suggesting further increases. However, on January 11, the number of new cases fell by nearly half, and by January 14, dipped to 141. On January 23, numbers rocketed to 527 before falling again. On Monday, just 200 new cases were observed in Bengaluru Urban.

The fluctuation could be because the virus had become weaker through mutations, a source was quoted as saying. Follow-up testing with rapid antigen and RT-PCR kits shows that many cases are testing negative within six days of being diagnosed, though earlier, it took between 10 and 14 days. Even manifestations of symptoms are said to be weak. Noted epidemiologist Dr Giridhar Babu said that no new variant of the virus had been detected through genomic sequencing so far.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike data reveals that from January 19 to 27, about 7,736 government beneficiaries were vaccinated, while in private hospitals, the number was collectively 34,707. Government medical staff say that young nurses and students, who constitute a majority of staff, are not getting consent from their families and are backing out, while many are doubting the efficacy of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the BBMP said that 50,000 people will be vaccinated in the second phase. Police, revenue, BBMP and officials from other civic agencies and health officials were also asked to prepare a list of those to be vaccinated in the third phase by March-end. People above 50 years of age and those below 50 years with co-morbidities will be vaccinated in the third phase. BBMP Commissioner N Manjunatha Prasad said that many people falling under these categories stay in the 500-plus slums in Bengaluru.

Source: Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express, The Times of India

1,512 unauthorised places of worship

A fresh survey conducted by the BBMP has identified 1,512 unauthorised or illegal religious structures in the city. The maximum number of such buildings, including temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras are in the East zone (503), followed by South (427), Bommanahalli (203), West (129), Rajarajeshwarinagar (95), Mahadevapura (76), Dasarahalli (53) and Yelahanka (26). Zonal joint commissioners and engineers were instructed to issue show cause notices to illegal religious structures that had come up after September 2009. The survey is to be submitted to the Karnataka High Court.

BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad said that the civic body is taking measures to demolish 214 structures that were built after the cut-off date of September 29, 2009, as ruled by the Supreme Court. He was not satisfied with the earlier survey that identified only 106 such structures across the city.

Source: The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Bangalore Mirror

Church Street air clears

The weekend traffic ban has drastically improved the air quality of Church Street. On Saturdays, there has been a 70% to 90% drop in the quantity of PM 2.5 in the air, according to a study by the Indian Institute of Science. Since November 7, 2020, the movement of vehicles on Church Street was prohibited during weekends for three months as part of the Clean Air Initiative project taken up by the DULT (Directorate of Urban Land Transport) and funded by UK’s Catapult Network. The improvement of air quality during the weekends was very clear when compared with weekdays.

Bengaluru’s iconic street sees improved air quality. Pic: Church Street First/Twitter

Source: Deccan Herald

Farmers’ tractor parade

Farmers held a symbolic tractor parade on Republic Day, coming into the city through five entry points and congregating at Freedom Park. They were protesting against three new farm laws enacted by the Union government. Police allowed less than a 100 tractors and set up hurdles for the planned rallies, leading to verbal altercations and sit-in protests.

Farmers held parallel Republic Day parades, many with their tractors, terming it ‘Jana Ganarajya Divasa’. Several Dalit, Left, labour and Kannada organisations joined the farmers. Centenarian freedom fighter H S Doreswamy, presided over the rally.

Source: The Hindu, Deccan Herald

[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]

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