The Blueline bus crisis in the capital is causing so much distress to commuters that the Delhi High Court has done well to issue notice to the government asking why safer vehicles shouldn’t replace these buses. There have been several accidents of late involving Blueline buses driven by rash — and often inexperienced — drivers. Most of these drivers seem to have little or no knowledge of road signs and would probably have their licence revoked anywhere else in the world. No wonder they are continuing on the murderous trail of the earlier infamous Redline buses. If there’s anything more unfortunate than this, it is the attitude of the authorities, whose ‘crackdown’ on these vehicles resembles more a knee-jerk reaction rather than any measured response. There seems to have been no plan of action to deal with the chaos, which has meant immense inconvenience for the public. In fact, passengers hanging on to the doors of the few buses on the road are putting themselves at great risk.
It is all very well for the government to wave the Essential Services Maintenance Act about and tell private operators to fall in line. But that doesn’t address the larger issue of unchecked lawlessness on Delhi’s roads. Statistics indicate that at least three people die in road mishaps every day and, evidently, Bluelines cannot be blamed for the fatalities in every accident. Maybe the traffic police should drop its penchant for issuing challans to suspect vehicles at random and start implementing preventive measures instead. For instance, they could focus on educating drivers on defensive driving and never to compromise safety by over-speeding and overtaking. Most important, though, the authorities must guard against the sort of complacency that saw several such ‘drives’ in the recent past turn into half-hearted initiatives that led nowhere. After all, paying lip service to traffic discipline can hardly be expected to improve the safety record of any new fleet of buses that may replace the Bluelines.
It is not that the situation elsewhere is better, with Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore also lacking well-connected, user-friendly public transport systems. Delhi, though, should be particularly concerned because of the looming Commonwealth Games in 2010. For, then, it will be compared to modern cities across the world, and must have an efficient public transport system.