Are they a law unto themselves? This is the common refrain of road users against the MTC drivers. And it is not without a reason! Jumping signals with impunity, MTC drivers get away with it. Hold your breath, it is not only about traffic violations as errant drivers taking cover under the unions’ protective shield, making it difficult for the police to deal with them. No wonder, drivers and the Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP) cross swords on our roads so often.
Well, both the MTC crew and the traffic cops are at the service of the people. However, these two getting engaged in quarrels, though not a pleasant sight, has become common of late. But, MTC drivers get away with the active support of their colleagues, who flock together in a show of solidarity, which the cops cannot muster.
Chidambaram, a traffic policeman in Poonamallee area says, “Jumping signals is the major violation that MTC drivers make on a regular basis. They do not stop at the signals even during peak hours.” And this, in his opinion, turns out to be the major cause for accidents on city roads. “The errant drivers penalised for those violations, continue to commit the same mistake. Imposing penalties has no effect,” he rues.
“We have laws in the statute to impose fines and arrest MTC bus drivers if they fail to follow the traffic rules. But, it is not that easy to lay hands on an errant driver as the trade unions rally behind him. Arresting them for not adhering to traffic rules and rash driving becomes a big head ache. Hence, our hands are tied,” says Ramanathan, another traffic policeman in Arumbakkam.
“If an MTC driver is arrested, MTC crew not only in the vicinity, but elsewhere, stop the buses midway through and resort to protest. Flash strikes over such incidents in the past make us think twice before proceeding against an MTC crew member,” he explained, lamenting that the traffic cops have to suffer this ignominy. What about the MTC administration? A senior official blamed the unions and ‘comradeship’ among the drivers as the sole reason for such violations, including jumping signals, continuing unabated.
According to him in many cases where the cops intervene, the passengers take sides with the driver in their eagerness to reach their destination early without any delay.
“Even passengers scold us when we launch an on-the -spot inquiry against them,” he says.
However, a traffic policeman sympathetic to the plight of the drivers has a different take. “When we confront the MTC drivers over violating traffic rules, they start pouring out their woes. They are required to be on wheels for over 150 km a day. Besides the tight schedule, they have to drive along the congested roads. In order to keep with the schedule, they are forced to jump signals,” says the Traffic Sub-Inspector on Arcot Road.
“The pressure mounted by the MTC administration on the drivers is taking a toll on them. They are asked to keep the time schedule during every trip, literally pushing them to over speeding. The MTC administration must look into these issues and provide refresher courses and periodic counseling to the drivers,” he maintains. Interestingly, a traffic constable who regularly commutes by MTC buses pointed out that increase in bus stops without any evaluation increases travel time and the poor driver has to share the blame for the delay. He said, “Today, the travel chart that was put in buses makes one think how over the years bus stops have increased in number. This results in an increase of travel time, forcing drivers to jump signals.” However, he admits: violations are violations!