Introduction of student-specials, concerted effort by parents, management, and authorities can end trouble

The gruesome death of four students, including two school kids , in a shocking accident caused due to footboard travel in a city bus in Chennai on December 10, has not only kicked up a lot of storm across the State, but has nudged the government to act on the matter. The incident raised so much concern that Madras High Court took suo motu cognisance and issued a host of instructions to curb the menace. The measures put forth by the High Court include stopping the buses and asking footboard travellers to get down if need be. “If any student is found travelling on the footboard, the matter may be reported not only to the parents of the student concerned, but also to the principal of the educational institution and if he repeats the same , the school may take action for removing such students, after notice to the parent,” the High Court said.

Footboard travel is a serious issue and it has led to a number of accidents, many fatal. The State Express Transport Corporation buses and private buses with doors that could be closed do not face the problem.

Though the transport department and police have launched measures to curb footboard travel from time to time , they never bring in desire results except for the first few days.

Footboard travel is a menace found not just in cities , but also in villages, thanks to the mushrooming of educational institutions and industrial houses in the suburbs . Educational institutions, be it universities or colleges or schools, operate a large number of buses for the benefit of student community. One cannot notice footboard travel in these buses, as they enrol only a limited number of students every trip. Many students opt out of these buses, as the fee charged is on the higher side and these buses take a circuitous route covering many interior areas, due to which the students have to leave their homes much in advance. Moreover, the students prefer city buses as they can return back homes as per their liking, without waiting for the college buses.

During the peak hour rush office-goers and students could be seen waiting at Central and Chathiram bus stand and in all the city bus stops. The introduction of vestibule buses, however, has reduced the congestion to a certain extent. A cross section of the people demand more vestibule buses mainly in the routes where educational institutions are situated.

Moreover, student-specials should be introduced from places such as Woraiyur, Tennur, Subramaniapuram, Palpannai, and Palakkarai in the morning hours and from areas such as Melapudur and Puthur, where a cluster of institutions are situated. Following the Chennai tragedy, officials have launched a crackdown against footboard travelling in the city buses. During a drive conducted in the peak hours in the morning on Friday, a team of officials, led by Balasubramanian, Regional Transport Officer, Tiruchi, checked as many as 84 city buses. Cases were booked against seven private buses and one STC bus, after the officials found commuters travelling in footboard in these vehicles.

D.R.Dharmaraj, secretary, Tiruchi Private Bus Operators' Association, says that the commuters cooperation is must for preventing the recurrence of such tragedies. Many youth have the tendency of travelling by standing near the footboard. Any amount of appeal by the bus crew never bothers them. On many occasion, they even pick up quarrel with the crew, leading to unpleasant incidents, he says, adding that the situation is the same in the rural routes too.

The authorities with the cooperation of the authorities of the educational institutions and parents should come forward to sensitize youth to the younger generation. The fleet operators will extend total cooperation in this regard, he adds.

Ameer Ahmed Munavary, a retired railway official, concurred with Mr.Dharmaraj and said that sensitisation programmes are the need of the hour.

“Strict enforcement of traffic and safety rules and forming a committee including students representatives to give counselling on the dangers of footboard travelling will go a long way in curbing this menace,” Mr.Munavary says. The operation of additional DEMU trains during the peak hours from centres such as Ariyalur, Thanjavur, Pudukottai to Tiruchi will reduce the congestion in buses. With the closure of the Ariyamangalam railway station, hundreds of students and workers have to travel only by city buses.

This station should be reopened, says A.Selvaraj, an office bearer of the Vijay Fans Association, Sangiliandapuram.