Molestation of a woman on a moving bus throws more light on the nefarious ways of a section of private bus workers

Tuesday’s incident in which a young woman was molested on a moving bus in Kochi has thrown more light on the nefarious ways of a section of the city’s private bus owners and workers.

Earlier complaints

A senior official in the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) said they had earlier received complaints about the rude and irresponsible behaviour of the crew of ‘City Sons’ which plied the Panangad route.

The bus owner’s son Dileep Kumar is the prime accused in the molestation case. Criminal cases are pending against Appu from Thodupuzha, the cleaner who is evading arrest in the case.

“Three criminal cases are pending against the cleaner with Adimaly Police, including one of causing grievous hurt. Police teams have fanned out to track him,” said Francis Shelby, circle inspector of Ernakulam Central Police.

Whenever similar cases came to light, bus owners’ or operators’ associations put the blame on ‘militant workers backed by trade unions’. This time though, none of the four major bus owners’ associations that are active in the city has condemned the crime by the bus owner’s son who often stepped in as the conductor.

Neither have they initiated action against owners who instigate and connive with crew members to break the law.

Referring to action being taken by the MVD against the bus involved in Tuesday’s incident, Ernakulam RTO B.J. Antony said the department had prepared a report.

A decision to suspend or cancel the permit of the bus will be taken based on a report forwarded by the police.

“The offence is a grave one, especially since it took place within a bus during day time. Even more worrying is the fact that the bus owner’s son is the accused in the case. Bus crew members are statutorily bound to behave courteously with passengers.”

Goons deployed

On criminal links of many bus owners in the city, Mr. Antony alleged that the owners often deployed goons along many routes to intimidate the crew of other buses.

The Ernakulam district secretary of Kerala Bus Transport Association (KBTA), Suresh Ommen, has urged victims to react against such crimes and rude behaviour by bus crew.

“Fellow commuters too must come to the aid of those in distress,” he said, referring to the reported indifference of co-passengers to Tuesday’s incident. He said many drivers engaged in stunts while driving to catch the attention of women passengers.

Mr. Ommen said many bus owners who found it tough to mobilise workers handed over buses to goons who paid a fixed amount to the owner. “They are behind most of the grave incidents of rash and intimidating driving. Policemen often turn a blind eye to their rule violations since the racket has a well-oiled system to grease the palms of vulnerable personnel. Such elements must be weeded out since they tarnish the image of bus owners and crew who abide by rules.”

Mufti patrolling

Passengers and motorists who are at the receiving end of rude behaviour and rash driving by bus crew have been demanding that the police engage in mufti patrolling to check them. A senior police officer said the patrolling was stopped after most men in mufti sided with the bus crew.

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