Asks public transport agency to expand Pushpak service for final journey of dead, says old buses can be converted for this purpose
The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has asked the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) to expand the Pushpak shava vahika service, which was started almost 10 years ago to transport the dead to crematoriums.
In service of the dead: A PMPML van that takes the dead to the funeral ground. Essentially a service for the poor, the charges per trip are fixed at Rs 300. Pic/Vivek Sabnis
The issue was raised in the Standing Committee meeting of the PMC on Tuesday by Congress Corporator Arvind Shinde. "There are only two vehicles for the entire city, which break down most of the times. People living in slums and the economically weaker sections can't always afford an ambulance and so government-run services should rush to their aid," said Shinde.
Satish Kulkarni, joint managing director, PMPML, and Sunil Gawli, traffic manager, were among the officials present at the meeting. Shinde suggested that instead of scrapping old buses, they should be refurbished and modified for the service.
Strain on finances PMPML officials were, however, unwilling to continue the service citing severe strain on financial resources. An official requesting anonymity said the service had been thrust upon the PMPML by the PMC, but the civic body was taking credit for it.
"Maintaining old buses itself is very difficult and the consequences would be catastrophic if a Pushpak bus breaks down en route to a crematorium," said the official. Officials said the service was favoured as the bus could carry at least 25 people along with the body, which most ambulance services can not do.
Pushpak receives around seven to eight calls everyday and charges are Rs 300 per trip, which according to officials is the cheapest subsidised rate. "Five years ago, we charged Rs 30 but the rate was hiked owing to the ever-increasing fuel prices. Our daily income is around Rs 2,300, which is insufficient to maintain and refuel two buses," said another official.
The official said the PMPML may induct old buses into the service only after its top bosses take a policy decision. When contacted, Gawli, traffic manager, confirmed receiving the PMC directive but said a decision was yet to be taken on the issue.