If you live in a slum or village on the outskirts of Delhi, you will probably find yourself using one of these decrepit Gramin Seva vehicles for transport.
The Gramin Seva (Village Service) vans were introduced in 2010. Licenses were granted to 6000 vehicles, mostly 3-wheelers, to ferry people from the villages and slums in the peripheral areas of Delhi. It was a great idea, to meet the needs of an expanding city. The vans offered poor people cheap connectivity to the major city junctions, from where they could further connect via metro, bus and train.
Ticket prices for Gramin Seva have always been low; they range from 5 to 10 rupees in most cases, and for longer distances it is 15 rupees. However, passengers routinely have to deal with overloading of vehicles beyond the permitted capacity of 6 adults. Owners of the vehicles say they cannot run a sustainable service, if they only take 6 people. Sometimes the vans are crammed with double the allowed capacity! The van owners do not invest in vehicle repair, and although there are norms for the quality of the vehicles, most of them are now old and falling apart.
In addition, some vehicles do not ply on their designated rural/outer routes. Instead, they choose more commercially viable routes where they are not authorised to ply (by law, they can ply only up to the Inner Ring Road; and they cannot cross the Inner Ring Road into the city). Several errant vehicles have been issued challans (traffic violation notices) by the Delhi traffic police.
But if you live in a slum or farflung peripheral village, Gramin Seva is still one of the cheapest options, given the shortage of Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses in such areas. The big DTC buses cannot ply these unviable far-flung routes. In many areas, private enterprise has also stepped in to fill the gap. Many private vehicles operate as vans. In some places, there are even private bus services.
Recently the AAP government has checked and renewed licenses for 4200 of the original 6000 Gramin Seva vehicles. Hopefully some of the really decrepit ones have been thrown out. They have made it mandatory for the vehicles to be fitted with a working GPS, so that it is easy to track whether a vehicle goes out of its assigned route. Will things improve? We can only hope!