The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking has said its drivers are not solely responsible for accidents.
There have been more than five accidents involving BEST buses in the past few days.
In 2009, 50 people were killed in accidents involving BEST buses.
The BEST, however, has defended its drivers. “We train every driver intensively, even those on daily wages,” said G Jagtap, assistant general manager (transport), BEST. “Last year, 1,600 drivers were put through extra training after they failed the initial test.”
In June 2009, the BEST recruited at least 800 young drivers, some of who did not have any experience. The hiring process is still on.
“Young, new recruits are probably rash, but factors like bad roads, work on the metro and monorail, and flyovers and jaywalkers cannot be ignored,” said BEST chairman, Dilip Patel.
The past two years have seen 100 accidents involving experienced and novice BEST drivers. Figures collated over the past nine months indicate that drivers on daily wages were involved in 24 accidents.
Drivers are inducted on daily wages only when they pass the test. They become part of the salaried lot when authorities are satisfied with their driving skills.
“The administration should have a five-year cap before recruiting new drivers,” said BEST committee member, Ravi Raja. Drivers are trained every few months, and refresher training takes place every five years.
Experts feel young drivers lack patience and try to overtake other vehicles. Jaywalkers and bikers are also at fault. “People often cross roads while speaking on the mobile phone, while bikers have the habit of overtaking from the left,” Jagtap said.
Drivers, on their part, claim they are frustrated because they are poorly paid and have to drive at least 210 kms daily.
In June, drivers protested against the BEST management and demanded a hike in salaries. This is when the BEST started hiring drivers on contract.
More than 45 lakh people travel by BEST buses every day. The BEST has a fleet of 4,700 buses in 25 depots and a driver strength of 9,969. The BEST committee feels the the Bus Rapid Transit System, which will have dedicated lanes for buses will help prevent accidents.
Members argue over loan
Members of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Committee entered into an argument during a meeting on Wednesday.
The argument, between members of the saffron alliance and the Congress, started because the Congress claimed that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) had cleared Rs 88.39 crore for 468 buses and put up hoardings taking credit for this.
“Two years ago, we had asked the MMRDA for a loan of Rs 88 crore for buying buses. That was cleared only now. We had to buy these buses on a loan from World Bank,” BEST chairman and Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Dilip Patel, said.
Ravi Raja, a Congress representative on the BEST Committee, denied these allegations. “Your parties go about putting hoardings for everything,” Raja said. “Why is this being made into a political issue?” The MMRDA had cleared the loan on March 5.