The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government’s ambitious plan to bring 1,000 electric buses onto Delhi’s roads to serve as a model for public transport in other cities has run into opposition from the bureaucracy, with which the capital’s political executive has been frequently at odds.

The cabinet note on the Rs 2,870 crore project, accessed by HT, revealed that the council of ministers headed by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal overruled a series of objections raised by the transport, planning and finance departments to approve it “in principle” on Wednesday.

The 33-page note said the transport department had opposed the appointment of Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System Ltd (DIMTS) as the consultant for the project.

“DIMTS has no expertise, whatsoever, in the field of electric bus technology. The profile of their team has experience in bid process management and integrated mechanism for CNG cluster buses only,” the note read.

The department, instead, suggested that the government opt for global tenders.

The objections indicate that the project is set to become another flashpoint between the bureaucracy and the AAP government, which claimed that civil servants are trying to “sabotage” its plan of introducing 1,000 electric buses by next June.

“DIMTS anyway is going to engage international experts who are well versed with the induction and operation of large EV systems for public transport. So, the question of global tenders for appointing a consultant does not arise. Besides, DIMTS, in which the Delhi government has a 50% stake, is working towards capacity building in electric bus technology,” transport minister Kailash Gahlot said.

Another objection was about the government bypassing the first step of inviting expressions of interest from suppliers and preparing a detailed project report (DPR) for the purchase.

“The finance department suggested to prepare a DPR/PPR (preliminary project report) for the present proposal because of the size of investment i.e. approx. ?2,500 crore for the operation of buses and ?370 crore for charging infrastructure,” the note said.

All over India, only 30 electric buses are operational and Delhi will serve as model for a public transport system based on such buses, Gahlot said.

“If we go on to consider prior experience in deploying electric buses in public transport in substantial numbers as the only yardstick for expertise, then given the number of electric buses in operation in India or anywhere outside China, which has 99% of world’s electric bus fleet, the only firms that might qualify are Chinese firms,” he said.

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