Transport Minister R. Ramalinga Reddy on Thursday said the government will make installation of emergency exit doors mandatory for all passenger vehicles, including fully-built monocoque coaches.
Speaking to The Hindu in the backdrop of the Haveri accident where seven people were killed when a Volvo bus caught fire early on Thursday, Mr. Reddy said the department would issue suitable orders shortly.
While the order would be made applicable with immediate effect for new vehicles, it would be extended to existing vehicles in a phased manner.
Mr. Reddy wondered why an order issued by the Transport Commissioner in 2008 and 2010 that required vehicle manufacturers to install the emergency door was withdrawn.
He said the order should not have been withdrawn as emergency doors always facilitate speedy exit of passengers.
Bhaskar Rao, Inspector-General of Police (North Range), Belgaum, who was the then Transport and Road Safety Commissioner who had issued the orders, welcomed the statement of the Minister.
“I had issued the orders to ensure safety of passengers,” he said.
Many survivors of the Haveri accident said they were unable to break open the emergency exit windows with their hands and some kicked them open.
Some broke the windshield. Even after they were broken, they could not get off the bus easily because of the sheer height (7 ft) from the ground.
Mr. Rao, during his stint as KSRTC Director (Security and Vigilance), had ensured that Volvo Buses supplied its coaches with a third passenger door on the right hand side of the coach. This was the fallout of a fire accident when a Volvo bus plying between Baroda and Ahmedabad caught fire after brushing against a fuel tanker in 2006 killing all 45 passengers. Later, as Transport Commissioner, he issued the two circulars.
Mr. Reddy further said besides making emergency doors mandatory, the department has taken a slew of measures to ensure passenger safety in buses. Since the Mahabubnagar accident, over 4,000 tourist and private buses were subjected to thorough inspection.
While 1,999 cases were registered against the operators, permits of 119 buses were cancelled, he said.
Steps are being taken to ensure private operators do not transport cargo in their buses, particularly inflammable and dangerous substances. Special squads of inspectors of motor vehicles have been constituted at each of the regional transport offices in the State to maintain strict vigil on tourist and private buses, Mr. Reddy said.
Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj H.K. Patil also visited the hospital, where the injured have been admitted.