KERALA

Rash driving: crackdown on private buses planned

Our Bureau

KOCHI: Fed up with the antics of private busmen, who announce flash strikes at the crack of a whip, abandon vehicles on the middle of the road at the slightest provocation and indulge in intimidatory driving, the Regional Transport Authority and the police have decided to act tough.

Even as complaints against busmen were mounting, the immediate provocation to crack the whip was employees abandoning buses in the middle of the road in Shanmugham Road on Thursday, following a tiff that they had with some students near the Maharaja's College. The deadlock, which started in the evening, continued for two hours and disrupted traffic in the route and even in M. G. Road.

Report sought

District Collector A.P.M. Mohammed Hanish, who is the chairman of the RTA, said that he has sought a report from the police about Thursday's incidents. "This type of hooliganism cannot be encouraged. The culprits have to be brought to book. Flash strikes set a bad precedent, since passengers are held to ransom," he said.

Faced with alarming increase in accidents involving private buses, the previous District Collector Gyanesh Kumar, too used to seek reports from the police when major accidents involving private buses happened.

Thursday's incident comes in the wake of a similar, but a worse one in August 2000, when buses were abandoned in the middle of the carriageway in the arterial M.G. Road, from afternoon to late in the night. This was, again, after a tiff with students in front of the St. Albert's College.

10 commandments

The 10 commandments, framed by private busmen over a year back to check rash driving and to usher in a better relationship with passengers, has since been forgotten. It is also doubtful whether policemen in mufti have been effective.

The police say that petty cases are registered against 30 to 40 buses daily under various offences, from not stopping at bus bays to rash driving. "The drive against private buses is a continuous process. Their driving culture cannot be changed suddenly," said Dinendra Kashyap, City Police Commissioner.

The Traffic Police are now deploying personnel, often in mufti, to ensure that buses do not stop at the centre of the road. Fines too are being imposed. But the ground situation has not changed much.

Representatives of the Ernakulam District Private Bus Operators' Association say that quarrels take place with students mostly on the issue of bus concession.

"We will soon organise a face-to-face programme with students and officials of the Motor Vehicles' Department and the police, to discuss pending issues," said M.B. Satyan, the general secretary of the Ernakulam District Private Bus Operators' Association.

"Sadly, students continue to pay just 50 paise for travelling in city buses. This has not gone up even after repeated hike in ticket fare, following the increase in operational charges.

Often, bus concession forms issued by the students' travel facility committee are misused. On our part, we have sought the cooperation of employees' unions in checking rash and intimidatory driving," he said.

Bus routes

``We are opposed to flash strikes and such measures which inconvenience members of the public," said Joy Joseph, the general secretary of the Private Bus Thozhilali Federation (AITUC). "Coming to the need to prevent rash driving, officials in the Regional Transport Office must not issue the same timing to more than one bus in a route. The clash of timings results in unwanted competition between busmen," he said.

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