When they are on the road, they snuff out innocent lives and when they are off it, they leave thousands of commuters stranded. Bus users faced huge problems on Monday as most Blueline buses kept off the roads in the morning to protest the ongoing traffic police drive against them.
Commuters had to wait for hours for buses in the morning peak hours as there were virtually no Blueline buses on the roads. Though there were many Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses plying in the morning, they were not enough to fill up the gap. The situation got slightly better during evening hours, by when many Blueline buses returned.
There were fewer buses because Blueline bus drivers held a meeting and staged a protest at Punjabi Bagh in the morning under the banner of 'Drivers Ekta Manch', a newly- formed association of Blueline drivers.
Tuesday, however, promises to be better as bus drivers said they would ply buses normally. The decision could have been taken keeping in mind the Delhi government's threat to take strict action against such drivers. "Strict action would be taken against the drivers trying to blackmail the government and exploiting the situation," Transport minister Haroon Yusuf said.
Monday's bus crisis brought back bitter memories of July for commuters, when most buses were off the road due to the government's fitness drive. "I have been waiting for the last 40 minutes and have not seen a single bus going to ITO," said Sudesh Kumar, a commuter waiting near the Dilli Haat bus stop. "There are no private buses, only DTC buses are running today," he said.
Women had a tougher time as they were unable to board overcrowded buses. "There is too much rush on the buses. I would rather wait for the next bus than push and shove like men to get on a bus," said Savita Mishra, a government employee.
Auto-rickshaws had a field day as commuters getting late for office had no other choice but to pay whatever exorbitant fare the autowallahs were charging.
Delhi Metro also saw a record earning of Rs 83 lakh and a ridership of 6.6 lakh people till 8 pm. "This is 25 per cent more ridership. we expect to break the record of 7 lakh passengers. We are running all our 59 trains to cater to the rush," said Delhi Metro Rail Corporation spokesman Anuj Dayal.
To meet the bus shortage, the government had also withdrawn bus services from the National Capital Region and CNG buses plying on the roadways for operation on city routes.
"We are trying to mend our faults so there are no accidents. But the traffic police is unfairly targeting us," said Suraj Bhan, member of the Drivers Ekta Manch. "We have to overtake most of the times because the bus stops and bus lanes are encroached upon. Why doesn't the police penalise other vehicle users who drive in bus lanes?" he said.
"Users who travel on footboards and board and disembark from running buses are also at fault, but we are the only who are put behind bars," he said. Bhan said services would be normal on Tuesday and the next course of action would be decided in a meeting on October 25. In the last one week, about 500 buses had been impounded for violation of the Motor Vehicles Act and about 100 drivers were arrested for traffic rule violations.