Delhi government to Supreme Court: 1000 standard-floor cluster buses will be fitted with hydraulic lifts

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The Delhi government today told the Supreme Court that it will install hydraulic lifts in 1,000 standard-floor buses to be procured under the cluster scheme on its own cost to make them accessible for differently-abled persons, especially those on wheel chair. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) has challenged an order of the Delhi High Court by which it had barred them from procuring 2,000 standard-floor buses. The top court, had yesterday asked the government to explain by today, whether it intends to make these cluster buses friendly to differently-abled persons by fitting them with hydraulic lifts. A bench of justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was told that a meeting was held by Delhis Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot on the issue of wheelchair friendly\/accessible buses on June 19, after the High Court had on June 1 restrained it from going ahead with the tendering process for purchasing buses. Pursuant to the said meeting, the government of NCT of Delhi is agreeable to have these mechanical lifts fitted on all the buses proposed to be acquired under the Cluster scheme by the L1 bidders, the Delhi government said through an affidavit. It further said, The mechanical lifts will be installed by the Vehicle Manufacturers as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). The fitment of hydraulic lifts is also envisaged under the harmonised guidelines issued by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. The government said in the meeting it was decided that the cost of this additional fitment (hydraulic lifts), which was not mentioned in the original tender specification, has been agreed to be borne by the government of Delhi in principle. Justifying the move, the AAP government said this decision has been taken by it considering the dire need to augment the existing bus fleet, particularly on the rural routes identified for the purpose and the urgency of doing so in larger public interest and also specifically the need for disabled friendly public transport. The decision will address the issue of accessible public buses to passengers with locomotor disability, it said, adding that the decision was also taken to avoid any further delay in the acquisition of buses for public transport as a fresh tender may delay the entire process by more than a year. The bench took the affidavit on record and posted the matter for further hearing next week. The apex court had yesterday asked probing questions to the AAP government and the DTC over their intention to purchase 2,000 standard-floor cluster buses, which are not friendly to differently-abled persons. The government had later during the hearing had informed the court that a tender floated on March 16 by the DTC for procurement of 1,000 standard-floor buses is most likely to be scrapped as only one bidder has come forward. It had said that fitting of hydraulic lifts to make the buses friendly for differently-abled persons, would entail a total cost of around Rs 80-90 crores. The government counsel had said that after talking to Gahlot, he was informed that a decision has been taken to procure additional 500 low-floor buses, which will be friendly to differently abled persons. He had said that this decision of procuring additional 500 buses will be soon placed before the cabinet, as the government intends to increase the fleet of public transport buses. The high court had on June 1, pulled up the AAP government for not taking a single step for ensuring accessible transport for disabled persons in the national capital and restrained it from procuring standard-floor buses as it impedes their mobility. It had said that the government is bent upon treating the disabled as non-existent, or, in any case not having any rights.