'Don't pressurise me on Blueline buses'
Even as the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi government to draw up within four weeks a phase-out plan for the 'killer' Blueline buses, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit unabashedly appealed to the people and the media not to "pressurise" her on the issue.
"We are concerned over the issue. Every one is asking me about the problem but no one is suggesting a solution. Please don't pressurise me over the Blueline bus problem," said an irritated Dikshit.
The statement came as a surprise as the chief minister had earlier said that she would "prefer to walk rather than commute on a Blueline bus".
Dikshit expressed her helplessness on the issue after a meeting. Delhi Lt. Gov. Tejendra Khanna called on Monday evening to take stock of the privately operated Blueline buses. Delhi Chief Secretary R Narayanswamy, Delhi Police chief YS Dadwal, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Qamar Ahmed and senior transport department officials were present at the meeting.
Earlier in the day, the Delhi High Court took strong exception to the fatal accidents involving Blueline buses, and asked the state government to prepare a detailed phase-out plan for the fleet that has claimed 94 lives this year, including seven on Sunday.
"Earlier, the court had given the government time till Dec 15 but after the Sunday accident, it directed (the government) to submit a detailed phase-out plan for privately-owned Blueline buses within four weeks from today," said Anup Bhambani, amicus curiae appointed by the court.
The court, however, has given clear instructions that the phase-out should not affect the commuters. For every cancellation of Blueline bus permits, there should be a replacement," Bhambani told reporters.
The court has also asked the state government to furnish details of Blueline buses being owned and operated by city legislators and parliamentarians.
Summoning the government and private operators for an urgent hearing on the issue, a bench of justices Mukul Mudgal and Reva Khetrapal said: "It's becoming shocking day by day and cannot get worse than this."
The court fixed the next hearing of the case on Oct 11.
After meeting the chief minister and senior government officials, Lt. Gov Khanna said: "Innocent people are losing their lives everyday and it is a major problem. I have said it earlier that the management of these buses should be handed over to corporates."
"I will reiterate that the government may also think of handing over the management to the military," he said. Khanna even suggested that traffic experts from Chicago could be roped in to help the city improve its traffic management.
In the wake of Sunday's accident, in which seven people were killed and eight injured in south Delhi, the Delhi Police have unleashed a renewed drive to curb the growing fatalities on the capital roads.
Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said: "From now on, the Blueline bus drivers found driving rashly will be charged under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) besides the Motor Vehicles Act. The buses will be impounded too."
"In the near future, we are going to deploy the full strength of traffic police in the night to check all the heavy vehicles entering Delhi," he said, adding that over 50 Police Control Room (PCR) vans with specially trained officials will patrol city roads.
"The officials will immediately prosecute the errant drivers and if required buses will be impounded," Bhagat told IANS.
Bhagat said the police are also trying to seize those buses which are running without permits on the capital's roads. According to data with the police department, they have prosecuted Blueline buses 74,355 times this year and impounded them on 9,268 occasions. At least 1,360 drivers have been arrested in the last 10 months for traffic violation.