The death of 15-year-old Kannan, who slipped from an MTC bus and was crushed under the wheels, could have been avoided, as it was found that the doors of the bus had been left open.
The accident in Palavakkam came as a grim reminder of the gruesome accident last December on Old Mahabalipuram Road, which claimed the lives of four students who were travelling on footboard.
It appears that MTC bus crew have not learnt a lesson after the earlier accident, in which the bus doors had not been shut.
When asked about this, managing director of Metropolitan Transport Corporation P P Rajendran said the accident occurred before the driver could close the bus doors after halting at the Palavakkam bus stop. “The driver was about to close the door, but the boy fell before that,” he told Express. He said it was not completely the fault of the driver. “Awareness about the dangers of footboard travel must be created among passengers to avoid such accidents,” he added.
However, trade union activists said the underlying malaise is much deeper. They pointed out that over-crowded buses and ill-maintained doors made it impossible for drivers to shut the doors. “In all other metros in India, not more than 600 passengers travel in a bus per day. But in Chennai, statistics pin the figure at 1,800. This means that passengers have to travel on footboard,” said K Natarajan, treasurer, Thozhilalar Munnetra Sangam Peravai.
“Riding triples is not allowed on a bike. But have police at any time taken legal action if a bus is over-crowded? The permitted limit for a bus is only about 70. The violation of this rule is so common that it does not seem an offence,” says R Anbazhagan, general secretary of Nethaji Pokkuvarathu Thozhilalargal Pathukappu Thozhir Sangam.
The trade union leaders also said doors in the many buses were dysfunctional. “The doors are hydraulic operated and needs proper maintenance. Maintenance has been outsourced, but the agencies do not maintain them properly,” said Natarajan.
However, Rajendran said the challenges were complex and could not be solved overnight. “The city is fast developing; areas that had only a few houses till some years back are now thickly populated. We are taking sincere efforts to minimise accidents,” the official said.