Are mini buses above law? This is the question that pops up in the mind of any motorist using any road in the temple city and suburban areas. Pedestrians and two-wheelers are at great risk from these green machines, police admit.
Sample this. A 30-year-old man working as a bank manager in Karaikudi was knocked down a few days ago in suburban Kosakulam-Anaiyur stretch, while he was walking along with a friend. Public rushed both the victims to the hospital. Unfortunately, the bank manager succumbed to injuries within a short time after admission.
A few months ago, a mini bus proceeding towards Karupayoorani was carrying so many passengers beyond its capacity that the vehicle toppled near Gomathipuram after colliding with a private auto. Traffic police said that eight persons suffered simple injuries, while the driver escaped from the scene fearing trouble. The true tale does not stop here. Route violations, blowing air horns, carrying passengers beyond their capacity, stopping the vehicle at places other than bus stops and, to top the table, playing obscene songs during trips are commonly observed behavioural traits of mini buses. There is lingering concern over enforcement aspects by the authorities concerned. A senior police officer said that the mini bus was allegedly driven by a conductor and that he was talking over a mobile phone while driving the vehicle. Requesting anonymity, a transport department official said that route violations by mini buses were alarmingly high. “If it is bad in the city limits, it is worse in suburban locations,” he admitted. Out of the 250 sanctioned number of mini buses for the district, there are 230 on road. As per government norms, un-served areas by transport corporation buses within a distance of 12-16 km are covered by mini buses. A consumer activist, M. Meenakshisundaram, said that the 3Es (engineering, education and enforcement) lacked on the part of officials. Despite bad roads with pot holes and improper speed breakers, a majority of the mini bus drivers drove in a rash and negligent manner.
A traffic police constable near Goripalayam said that the mini buses ‘occupied' the open space behind the Corporation complex which caused frequent obstructions to flow of traffic on the busy Panagal Road. Parking of mini buses along the Rajaji Park area and near St. Joseph's Girls Higher Secondary School, among other stretches, also resulted in traffic blocks, public in the area complained.
While admitting that they indulged in violations, an employee working for a ‘big' mini bus operator, said that mini buses were a boon to public, especially to those residing in extension colonies. A TNSTC official said that mini buses occupied the bus stops meant for city buses and posed problems to their drivers. The route violations by mini buses hit the TNSTC revenue to a great extent.
Traffic police officers said that out of the 47 fatal road accident cases reported till June 30 in the city, two cases were due to mini bus drivers. The number was high in rural areas. On many occasions, the victims did not prefer a complaint and this could be a reason for less number in the city, he claimed.