Bluelines are back on the roads and the Delhi government believes they will now follow rules. So is it back to square one? The government says no, Blueline buses would be phased out as promised.
The idea is to corporatise private bus transport in the city so bus operators are accountable. The decision, however, comes 15 years too late — after many precious lives have been lost to the killer Blueline buses.
“We will phase them out as we have said. Only corporate houses or cooperatives with minimum 100 buses will be allowed to operate,” Delhi’s Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf said.
Experts say the problem lies with the government’s ad-hoc attitude towards finding a solution to Delhi’s public transport problems. “Like its earlier measures, the move to allow corporate houses or cooperatives to run bus services too is a knee-jerk reaction. No operator in Delhi has 100 buses, as required in the expression of interest brought out by government,” said SP Singh of Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.
Geetam Tiwari of IIT Delhi’s Transport Research and Injury Prevention Programme said the government only needs to improve the Delhi Transport Corporation for better public transport in the city. “The government is not serious about public transport. There is no problem with DTC but the government does not want to invest in infrastructure,” she said.
The root cause
Experts say the whole way government had gone for privatisation has been wrong. Back in 1992, the government had introduced the private Redline bus service, called so due to their colour scheme, to supplement DTC services. However, instead of allowing firms or partnerships to operate buses, the permits were granted to individuals with a view to provide livelihood to more people. Redline buses came to be known as killer buses as their involvement in fatal accidents increased.
“The policy of giving permits as a source of employment was flawed, it is not like running a shop. Most permit holders were unable to operate bus services. The government had its own agenda in setting up vote banks and many permits went to the graduate, freedom fighter and other quotas,” Singh said.
“Most buses are not run by original permit holders, which comprise at least 30 per cent women. Many that are sold are bought up by kith and kin of politicians and policemen,” said a senior Transport Department official on condition of anonymity
He said operators pay a fixed daily amount of Rs 2-4,000 to permit holders to run the buses. “They pay minimum wages to drivers and that is why you have untrained drivers and uncouth conductors. They do not spend on maintenance either,” he said.
As operators run buses to earn as much as they can, drivers are instructed to carry as many passengers as possible. “That is why they flout the carrying capacity, overspeed and race on the roads,” he said.
Reining them in
“The existing rules and norms are sufficient to tame Blueline buses if they are enforced properly,” said Anil Sood of NGO Chetna. “Most buses run illegally and are protected by politicians and bureaucrats. Even court orders are not implemented,” he said.”
The Supreme Court had issued a series of guidelines to ensure road safety in 1997, including installation of speed governors, speed limit of 40 kmph, buses to run in assigned lane and halt only at bus stops. The violations entail suspension/cancellation of permit and impounding of vehicle.
The Transport Department has not made it mandatory for blueline drivers to undergo a day’s training on a simulator at two designated centres, including the Automobile Association of Upper India (AAUI).