Groups of students travelling atop the MTC buses is a normal scene during Bus Day events. Other road-users are hardly amused, say L. Srikrishna and P. Oppili

Celebrating `Bus Day' may be Chennai college students' idea of fun. But other road-users are hardly amused. In the name of `Bus Day,' college students take over a bus, and take out a procession hampering traffic flow and impeding other road-users.

The police, who say they are introducing new decongestion measures to combat mounting traffic problems owing to an increasing vehicle population, remain mute spectators and just accompany the processionists, watching out that no untoward incident takes place.

The police have extended the four-lane system on the Anna Salai upto the Nandanam junction and restricted entry for certain goods carriers inside city limits. Civic bodies and development agencies are trying to create infrastructure to combat the traffic problem.

But not a single agency addresses the chaos that results from `Bus Day' celebrations, commuters note. Including the owners of the buses the MTC.

Traffic jam

Sample this. In the last 10 days alone, many road-users said that there were traffic blocks on the Poonamallee High Road, Kamarajar Salai, Royapettah, Santhome High Road, Tiruvottiyur, Egmore, Mylapore and on the arterial Anna Salai among other stretches owing to the Bus Day `tamasha' indulged in by students of different colleges.

Four days ago, an ambulance carrying an accident victim got trapped on the Kamarajar Salai. The vehicle could not come out for about 30 minutes, a police officer said.

Many road-users are unanimous that police should take action and not remain mute spectators. When contacted, Commissioner of Police Letika Saran told The Hindu that they would certainly take action, provided the MTC authorities preferred a complaint. In the larger public interest, police diverted traffic so that people could reach their destinations, at least with some delay and not remain immobile.

The reality is different: on Thursday and Friday, one could see four or five officers and, at least, 20 policemen walking along with 200-strong Bus Day revellers on Kamarajar Salai. The youngsters stood atop the bus screeching, whistling and hooting at passers-by.

College authorities pleaded helplessness on this issue, while many students admitted that traffic was stranded, but at the same time they said it was part of the student life.

The MTC authorities have a different story to tell. During February-March, Bus Day events gave them sleepless nights. A large number of students travelled on the roof of buses. This not only posed threat to the lives of the students but also led to cracks on the roof owing to heavy weight, the officer said.

Moreover, the driver had to drive the vehicle only at a minimum speed, which resulted in an increased fuel consumption.

Another officer said: "We insist on the students obtaining a written permission from the police that they would provide bandobust. Somehow the students get them. But, during the celebrations, no police personnel turned up to tell the students not to travel on the roof. A few women's colleges in the city organise Bus Day within their premises. They invite the MTC crew and present mementos. They also invite senior officers to put forth some of their demands regarding the MTC services. The boys could also think on these lines", the officer said. Another officer said it is time the Government took a clear decision and banned such celebrations, which would help the Corporation as well as the motorists.