Inadequacies in traffic-rule enforcement and the hangover of the once notorious police-bus owner nexus are spelling doom for road users in the city.
In Monday’s fatal accident in Kochi, a rashly-driven private bus mowed down an eight-year-old girl who was riding pillion on her mother’s two-wheeler, at Vytilla Junction on Monday evening. She died while being taken to a hospital nearby.
Interestingly, the police have charged a case under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code – causing death by negligence, which is a bailable offence. To the question why the driver was not charged under Section 304 – culpable homicide not amounting to murder, a non-bailable offence, a police officer said that the victim’s family might not get the insurance amount. “Moreover, it will have to be proved that the driver of Ansumon, the private bus involved in the accident, willfully hit the two-wheeler.”
To the question on the alleged police-bus owner nexus and the plethora of buses operated by benami owners, an officer said that this is a thing of yore. “We tried collecting details on this, but could not lay our hands on any.”
The bus involved in Monday’s accident is owned by Noushad and it was trying to take a left turn from SA Road to enter the Vytilla Mobility Hub. The police have reportedly taken the driver into custody and are verifying whether he was at the wheel at the time of accident.
“Buses race with one another to enter the hub and this is causing accidents at the junction on a regular basis. The police must take punitive action against the bus crew, since apart from policemen, plenty of surveillance cameras are there at the junction. I have seen pedestrians being knocked down by buses and often end up lose sleep remembering the gory scenes,” said a shop owner at Vytilla on the condition of anonymity.
Members of the public blame the Police and the Motor Vehicles’ Department for slack rule enforcement and for having a soft corner towards private buses. But the police cite statistics and claim that they are doing whatever is possible to book rule violators.
Five accident deaths have so far been reported from the limits of the City Traffic Police (East) this year, involving private buses. The buses were also involved in 103 non-fatal cases (in which people suffered grave and not-so-grave injuries), said the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic East) K S Baby Vinod. He said that the police are often hamstrung since passengers protest when their bus is detained for a few minutes for penalizing the crew.
The traffic police also charged 26,376 petty cases against private buses this year and collected Rs 62 lakh as fine during the 11 months. But it has charged only 235 suo motu cases against busmen so far. This works out to less than one case per day, despite the rash and intimidatory driving indulged in by most busmen all through day and night in the city and suburbs.
The traffic police and MV Department officials blame “unscientifically-fixed running time” for buses being driven rashly. Personnel of the two departments and bus operators blatantly justified rash driving by stating that it is for making up for the time lost in traffic snarls. But they were at a loss for words when it was pointed out that private buses are rashly driven even on Sundays, early morning hours and public holidays when there is very little traffic on the roads.
Similarly, the three stakeholders deny any link between rash driving and collection batta. They have no answer though on why the crew takes the extra effort and drive recklessly through busy roads, thus endangering life, if they are not paid batta in proportion to the daily collection. They also denied that buses are owned by ‘benamis’ like influencial people and police officials and say that all this occurred during a past era.
A policeman expressed helplessness when asked why they do not take action against buses which incessantly sound polyphonic horns and race through the city, despite police personnel on duty at junctions being the worst affected by the annoying noise.