BENGALURU: A day after the Transport Department booked 21 BMTC buses ferrying students for non-compliance with Supreme Court safety norms, a reality check by Express at Majestic bus terminus revealed that there are serious flaws in the maintenance of buses which are used by about 50 lakh passengers, including school children, every day.
While the Supreme Court has come up with clear guidelines for vehicles engaged in carrying school children, BMTC’s regular buses continue to ferry students without any safety mechanisms in violation of rules.
Sources told Express that the transport minister’s office has reportedly asked the Transport Department to stop taking action against the BMTC buses as it will defame the government. “Most of the BMTC buses are ferrying students in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines. But we have been told not to take action against them in future as it apparently defames the government,” a senior official in the Transport Department said.
When contacted, Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy denied this. “Why should I ask them not to take action against BMTC buses? It is completely false,” he said.
While BMTC does not have dedicated school buses, nearly 300 of its regular buses ferry school children during morning and evening hours.
It may be recalled that on Saturday, a BMTC bus ferrying 52 students to Srirangapatna for an excursion caught fire on the busy Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.
Express also found that most of BMTC’s regular buses are falling apart. There are broken chairs and damaged window panes, and the interiors are unhygienic. Most buses don’t have first-aid boxes and fire extinguishers. Also, headlights and tail lights of most buses are damaged, making it difficult for drivers and other motorists to identify the bus, especially during the night. Take the case of Route 258C (KA 01 FA 196). A portion of a window and two seats are missing (see pictures).
In fact, BMTC hasn’t bought a single bus since December 2014. Statistics shows that in the current BMTC fleet, 830 buses have crossed 8 lakh km and 199 buses are over 10 years old.
“We are helpless. Broken suspension, damaged gear shift sticks and absence of rear view mirrors are posing serious problems in most buses. Dashboard console is also dysfunctional in many. It’s difficult to drive these badly maintained buses in the city as a minor fault by a driver will put many lives at risk. I have asked my senior officials to rectify the issues but there has been no proper reply from them so far,” a BMTC driver said. There are also complaints about increasing breakdowns of BMTC buses.
Vinay Srinivas of Bangalore Bus Prayanikara Vedike, an NGO campaigning for better bus services, said: “BMTC takes common people for granted. While they operate luxury buses to IT corridors, poor people, who don’t have any other alternative for transport, are getting old buses. This is despite BMTC having the highest fare in the country. The state government also has a stepmotherly attitude towards BMTC,” he said.
Sources say shortage of technical staff is one reason for poorly maintained buses. A senior BMTC official said: “This is mainly because of the delay in getting nearly 1,000 new buses because of various reasons. The new buses are expected to come by next March,” a BMTC official said.
BMTC officials said they cannot change the colour of buses ferrying students to yellow as they also ply after school hours.