Private buses: Danger lurks at every turn

Private operators show blatant disregard for safety rules for no strict punitive action is taken against them.

28 people lost their lives when a bus plunged into a canal in Mandya, adding to the rising number of deaths caused by the carelessness of private passenger buses. The Karnataka government has made emergency doors mandatory in all buses, a diktat that has been largely ignored. Private operators show blatant disregard for safety rules for no strict punitive action is taken against them. How many more tragedies will it take before the law kicks in, asks Nischith N.

Twenty-nine passengers, including at least seven school children heading home after class, died on Saturday when the bus they were travelling in plunged into a canal in Mandya district after the driver apparently lost control while speeding round a bend.

Only one boy and the bus driver and conductor survived the incident. While the lone passenger who survived, reportedly swam out of the window as he was seated by it, others were not so lucky as the bus allegedly did not have an emergency exit, which they could have used to get out.

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Although the Karnataka government has made emergency exit doors mandatory in all buses after several months of discussion with its own and private bus operators, it’s clear that its diktat hasn’t worked. This despite the fact that it had given all bus operators time to provide the emergency exits. Instead, these operators blatantly disregard passenger safety by adding two more seats to the buses, which would otherwise have to be removed for the emergency exit.

Observes Mr Purhotham, an advocate, “The bus which plunged into the canal in Mandy did not have an emergency exit, trapping the passengers inside. In many accidents both the driver and passenger doors get jammed under the impact, leaving the passengers trapped. It is said that in a frontal impact, the doors of a Volvo bus get jammed, but this can happen in normal buses too. It is also very difficult to break the window panes or the windshields of buses to let passengers out.”

In his view, it is time for the RTO official to be more strict when permitting private transporters to ferry passengers.

But ask a senior RTO official and he claims the Karnataka government has already started to crack the whip on private bus operators, who have not provided emergency exit doors on their buses. Over 700 private buses are being checked, according to him. “We are very strict in enforcing the rules. All buses must have emergency exits. The Mandya incident involved some rural bus, which had not followed the law. From now onwards we will make no excuse for such violations while issuing them permits,” he assures.


Why aren’t private operators more concerned?
Although the state has seen many accidents similar to the one in Mandya, safety remains a concern still on most private buses with the authorities only making a half-hearted attempt to force the operators to equip them with all safety measures required under the law.

Just a few years ago, in 2013, three bus accidents were reported in merely a fortnight. And in one of the worst road accidents in the recent past, 45 people, including an infant, were burnt to death in Andhra Pradesh when a luxury bus run by a private travel agency caught fire after hitting a culvert on the Bengaluru-Hyderabad national highway. In another horrific mishap, seven persons were killed and 40 others injured when a Bengaluru-Mumbai bus operated by National Travels caught fire after hitting a road median near Kunimelli bridge, about 14 kms from Hubballi.

Private buses: Danger lurks at every turn

There seems to be a pattern to the accidents as most reportedly take place at night after the passengers have gone to sleep. Says Mr Kiran Kumar, a regular bus commuter, “In the Mandya tragedy we are told that the driver somehow lost control and the vehicle fell into the water with the passengers. If the operator had taken all safety measures , it would not have been all that difficult for them to come out of the bus and swim to safety . But the fact that most died shows the bus had taken no safety measures.We have seen many such accidents in the past too but this doesn’t seem to bother the private bus operators.”

In the Mandya accident, worried relatives, reached the spot of the mishap after their calls went unanswered, hoping some of the passengers had survived, but their hopes were dashed as all except one perished, speaking volumes about the lack of safety precautions onboard the bus.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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