Delhiites suffer as Bluelines kept off roads
Hanging precariously from packed state-run buses, with just window bars for support, hundreds of commuters here had a tough time on Saturday as the Delhi government had ordered the "killer" private Blueline buses off the road for two days.
Commuters from all parts of Delhi and its satellite towns had to wait for hours to get a bus to their destinations with the entire fleet of 4,200 Bluelines not plying.
Apart from the Delhi Metro, there were just 3,000 state-run Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses to take care of the public transport system in a city of over 16 million.
The end result was commuters got delayed, walked to their destinations or took an auto-rickshaw.
Most DTC buses were overflowing with commuters standing on the footboard or even doing a balancing act on the back of the bus.
"I could not manage to enter two successive buses in spite of trying hard. Every bus on route no.620 was full. I am waiting for a less congested bus," said Aarti Samant.
"I have been waiting for over 90 minutes to go to Hauz Khas from Connaught Place. So far I have failed to push my way into a bus. The city needs more DTC buses," Samant said.
For Rajesh Verma, it was equally trying. "I have been waiting to go to Ghaziabad for nearly an hour. Only one bus came but it was jam-packed. I don't know when I will be able to reach home," he said.
Some government school students were seen walking to their schools early Saturday, as the roads were virtually empty of buses.
In spite of all warnings, crackdowns and assurances by the Delhi government, the notorious Bluelines have continued to kill people, triggering a huge public outcry.
In 2007, at least 64 people have been crushed by these Bluelines and injured over 150. Since the beginning of July, these buses have killed at least eight people.
These buses, indispensable for the ordinary commuter but dubbed 'killer buses' because of their almost daily involvement in accidents, have been mowing down at least 100 people every year.
Influential politicians or even the families of police officers own many of the Bluelines buses.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Friday asked private bus operators to steer clear of city roads during the weekend and use the time to improve their infrastructure.
"The Blueline bus operators have been asked not to run buses on the city roads Saturday and Sunday. This would provide an opportunity to Blueline bus operators to rectify their shortcomings and mend their behaviour," she said.
Dikshit said her government was compelled to take such a hard decision because there was no let up in the irresponsible behaviour of Blueline drivers and operators despite assurances they would behave and repeated warnings by the transport department."
Harassed commuters say they are not against the government taking action against Bluelines, but it should first make proper alternative arrangements.
"We are not against the direction of the state government against Bluelines but they should have arranged for more buses. When over 7,000 buses - both DTC and Bluelines - find it tough to handle the city's crowds, how can just 3,000 DTC buses do the job?" asked Anujeet Sengupta, a commuter.
"I think our government is not aware of the ground realities," he added.
Earlier this month, Dikshit had promised to phase out Bluelines from the capital's roads by 2010.