Andhra Pradesh

Hanging on for dear life: perilous ride awaits schoolchildren on RTC buses

Schoolchildren and college students jostling to climb on to a city bus to return home after school at the MRO Office in Seethammadhara, Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.

Schoolchildren and college students jostling to climb on to a city bus to return home after school at the MRO Office in Seethammadhara, Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.  

Children travelling on footboards of packed buses is becoming a common sight on city roads

A group of schoolchildren, some as young as 10 years old, wait at a bus stop near the MRO Office in Seethammadhara to board an RTC bus home after school.

As soon as the bus comes into view, the children start taking guard, jostling with each other to stand nearest to the bus when it pulls in at the stop. As the bus slowly comes to a halt, pandemonium breaks loose as the children elbow each other in a frantic bid to climb the bus.

There is hardly room for everyone on the already-crowded bus, and as it begins to pull away, several children climb on to the footboard of the bus and hold on for dear life.

Missing the bus and waiting for the next one is not an option, as there is no telling after how long the next bus would come.

Poor frequency

Schoolchildren and college students travelling dangerously on RTC buses is becoming an all-too common sight on city roads.

However, the students say it is a matter of compulsion for them as not taking the bus would mean having to shell out a lot of money on travelling by auto-rickshaw. They also blame APSRTC officials for not running enough buses on busy routes.

“There are not enough buses on the major routes. The frequency is also poor, especially during peak hours. There is a need for more buses on routes like Gajuwaka-NAD-Tagarapuvalasa, Gajuwaka-Madhurawada, and Kottavalasa-Pendurthy-NAD-RTC Complex,” said Chaitanya, a Degree college student.

“Most of the times, we are forced to board auto-rickshaws as Bus 222 (RTC Complex to Tagarapuvalasa) is mostly packed with students hanging off the foot-board. There are a few more buses which come from Steel Plant and Gajuwaka areas, but they too are overloaded,” said A Sireesh, a B. Tech student from a private college in Madhurawada.

S. Anjaneyulu, a parent who drops his son off at the Maddilapalem Bus Depot daily, says that he ensures his son gets inside the bus. “There is no problem if he does not get a seat, but I ensure that he does not travel standing on the footboard. Some students are forced to travel this way, which is very dangerous,” Mr. Anjaneyulu said.

Another college student K. Madhavi, who comes all the way from Kothavalasa to her college near RTC Complex, says that she comes at least half-an-hour before the scheduled time of Bus 541 (Kothavalasa to MVP Colony), just to get inside the bus, as the students boarding the bus are many but the frequency of buses is poor.

A senior official from the Traffic Police Department said that most of the times, they turn a blind eye to footboard travel (which is illegal) during college timings, as the students might get late for class.

“Footboard travel is extremely dangerous as the commuters can be hit by another overtaking vehicle. Parents must make sure their children do not travel on foot-board,” said a senior officer from Traffic Police.

At present, APSRTC-Vizag is running around 550 buses including 382 city ordinary buses, 120 Metro and a few others on various routes. It is learnt that about 100 bus services were reduced in the last one year. Many of the hired buses were back and some were diverted to other routes.

A few passengers alleged that buses on a couple of routes were fully stopped.

“The frequency of bus 20A which runs to HB Colony from One Town is very poor. Some passengers say that the route bus was completely discontinued. Now we are forced to board auto-rickshaws, who are charging ₹15 instead of ₹10”, said a passenger.

What officials say

APSRTC Regional Manager (Visakhapatnam) M.Y. Danam said that he has asked his officials to find out which routes have huge demand during peak hours, so that they could increase the frequency of those buses.

“In the morning, the situation is better, as all students leave over a staggered time varying from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. But in the evening, most of the educational institutions close at the same time, and there is a huge demand for buses, which leads to a packed situation,” Mr. Danam said.

He also said that he has asked his officials including drivers and conductors to make sure that students get inside the bus and avoid foot-board travel.

Need for more buses

Admitting that there was a reduction in city buses, Mr. Danam said that only about 25 city buses which were hired, have been withdrawn. “There seems to be a need for 50 more city buses and we would write to the government to allocate buses,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 4:45:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/hanging-on-for-dear-life-perilous-ride-awaits-schoolchildren-on-rtc-buses/article28873296.ece

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