I don’t do Blueline buses. I’d rather walk than get up on one of them. But, you see, I’m loaded. So I’d rather not walk either. I prefer travelling by car to walking, jogging, jogging backwards, kayaking or taking a Blueline bus — my carbon footprint be damned.
Thankfully, for the purpose of keeping the debate on whether to replace the entire fleet of Bluelines alive, the killer vehicles of New Delhi do also affect People Like Us. How, you ask, as you hold that mobile phone of yours between your crotch and the steering wheel, desperately trying to keep it (your mobile, that is) out of view of that police car as you approach a crossing? Blueline buses affect People Like Us by regularly doing people in — 11-year-olds, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians — while we in our cars get such a fright each time we read about these accidents, especially when those monsters swerve right in front of us.
Ever since Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and the Delhi High Court showered their fury against those deviant, law-breaking, life-snuffing, people-hanging vehicles last week, I’ve been having sleepless nights though. What will happen to all those families of Blueline drivers and owners? Are they not being made the scapegoat of a much bigger, nastier scam? Almost all killer buses may be Bluelines, but not all Bluelines are killers.
In a massive crackdown that has the British, Australian and American authorities furiously taking notes, Delhi’s State Transport Department and the Delhi Traffic Police issued over 800 challans and impounded about 200 buses on Tuesday alone. The following day, 90 per cent of the 4,200 Bluelines stayed off the roads of the national capital.
In an operation that required much multilateralism, the Delhi State Transport Department conducted raids on some 250 buses and trucks and found a large majority of them to be without ‘speed governors’ — mandatory devices that do not allow vehicles to travel beyond a certain speed. These vehicles also flunked overall fitness tests. That was in — ahem — February 2006. The very concerned and distraught Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf had then cleared his throat and said that he had issued instructions to “all concerned” that no vehicle that fails to comply with the prescribed norms would be allowed to ply on Delhi’s roads.
The very concerned and distraught Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf again cleared his throat this week and said, “We will invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act against [boycotting Blueline buses] if required.” Clearly the “all concerned” weren’t that concerned the first time round. Yusuf did not clear the air, let alone his throat, about what he plans to do, not only with Bluelines that flunk fitness tests, but also with all other dysfunctional buses. In other words, until Delhi buses — Blueline or otherwise — are made unfit for causing human misery, the city can look forward to more commuters’ woes that include passengers falling off overcrowded vehicles as they refuse to take Sheila-ji’s advice and walk.
Like Dick Whittington, I was not born with a seat-belt in my mouth. There was a time when I did travel on buses. (How’s that for street cred, eh?) Compared to cities like Calcutta and Bombay, New Delhi — where our Prime Minister, worried about obscene shows of wealth, resides when he’s not in his hometown of Guwahati — has a terrible, practically non-existent public transport system. You can’t flag down a taxi, and getting autos to go your way is like getting a hairy, motor-mouthed daughter married to a nice IIT boy. I’m not too sure when the Chief Minister last travelled in an auto, but if she can show me a Delhi auto-rickshaw that has a meter that’s not rigged or kaput (the latter enabling the driver to fleece the passenger with a smile and still come out looking the victim), I will show her a tery-cot sari that has the look and feel of a cotton Sanganeri print.
So while Bluelines are taken off the roads of Delhi and we all suddenly become model citizens on the road as a result of that one move, let me, slouching comfortably in my car as it zips through the national capital, give you an important tip about scalp hygiene: to solve dandruff problems, cut off the head.
Till we hear Haroon Yusuf clear his throat and speak again...
Bipasha Basu is like my sister. So what goes of your father’s if she decides to get up close and personal with Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo? It’s not as if she was caught in a lip-lock with fellow participant at the New7Wonders ceremony, Jennifer Lopez. (Then I would have said: So what goes of your mother’s?) But there’s this hullabaloo about Bipasha and Cristiano being caught on camera during the after-show party at Lisbon — and the hullabaloo this time is being generated not by some Mahila Brigade or the Shiv Sena or the Burqas Are Chic Association, but by the We-Are-Used-To-Everything-So-We-Don’t-Blanch media. Now I know that media-bashing is the new communalism-bashing, but after watching some channels ‘reporting’ the incident, it seems that yesterday’s morality police are today’s news channel producers.
The standard response from the righteous-chinned ones from the studios has been: ‘We’re just reporting an incident. We’re showing it because it happened.’ My mother’s crack habit it’s ‘just reporting an incident’! While one anchor went to lengths to ask ‘experts’ whether they didn’t think that Bipasha’s cultivated sexy image was “too much” and was attracting all kinds of attention (as if a Bollywood actress cultivating a sexy image is as unthinkable as an Indian waging a war in support of al-Qaeda), another rhetorically asked viewers whether — ho hum — she was doing anything that had anything to do with Indian culture. A Hindi channel kept flashing and rewinding pictures of Cristiano pecking Bipasha on the stage during the ceremony, punctuating them with kissing sounds (from a synthesiser?).
Don’t worry, Bipasha. This big brother is not watching you. And if the media ever accuse you of incestuous behaviour, what goes of their brother’s?