RTI exposes PMPML as Pune’s major fire safety hazard

PMPML’s reply to RTI activist’s query shows fire safety audit conducted at bus stops, depots and buses

pune Updated: Mar 06, 2018 15:19 IST
Shrinivas Deshpande
Shrinivas Deshpande
Hindustan Times, Pune
PMPML bus that caught fire in Pimpri on February 12. (HT File Photo)

The Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) has, in the past, claimed that it is doing everything possible to work towards the safety of passengers.

However, the latest revelations, through a response to an RTI application, has some startling facts.

City-based RTI activist, Rupesh Kesekar, in the reply from PMPML to his RTI application has found that the public transport body has not done any fire safety audits of their bus stops, central office, bus depots, offices and buses. Even though the RTI application clearly asked ‘mention why if fire audits were not done’, the PMPML simply said that the information is not available.

The recent fire incidents in PMPML buses across the city has brought the attention to PMPML’s non-compliance with fire safety standards.

On February 13, around 25 passengers had a narrow escape after a PMPML bus caught fire at Pimpri-Chinchwad. In a similar incident on Ganeshkhind road, on January 12,a PMPML bus running on CNG caught fire. No casualties were reported.

The findings of the RTI brought to light that the PMPML department has only 124 fire extinguisher units, while the PMPML has 2,000 buses, 2,500 bus stops and 13 bus depots across the city. The date further revealed that the PMPML administration had not purchased a single fire extinguisher in 2017-2018. The PMPML has not given out any further details relating to the purchase of fire extinguishers. The RTI also revealed that there is no regularity in refilling of the existing fire extinguishers.

Rupesh Kesekar said, “PMPML has been using 30 fire extinguishers, out of total 124, just to ensure the buses get clearance from the RTO officials. Once the procedure is completed, they remove the fire extinguisher units from the bus. Even the fire extinguishers present in some buses are not in good condition.”

Kesekar further said, “In 2017, there were around 10 buses that were gutted in fire. Hence, I decided to file RTIs seeking some information. I was surprised that PMPML buses are running without any fire audit. Most of the buses do not have any fire extinguishers.”

There are around 200 PMPML buses plying daily, carrying 11 lakh passengers, across Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. According to the RTO rules, every bus should have fire safety measures, like first aid box, proper fire extinguisher unit, reliable locks on the doors of the vehicles, proper fire exits, proper fuel tank and proper electrical wiring system in the bus.

PMPML chief Nayana Gunde said, “I have taken charge of PMPML recently. We are working on all these aspects. We are having a meeting with the board of directors in the first week of March and I will surely raise these concerns there. As far as safety audits are concerned, we have initiated a procedure for it.” As far as fire audit of the PMPML building is concerned, the property belongs to PMC and we have requested them in this regard, she added.

Bus stops cry for basic amenities

Only 25 out of 2,500 Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) bus stops across the city have some of the basic facilities, such as toilets, drinking water facility, first aid kits and charging points. The information was revealed through a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by RTI activist Rupesh Kesekar in Pune.

When Kesekar approached the PMPML seeking information on the availability of basic facilities at the bus stops, he was denied the information. Later, he filed RTI applications seeking the same. The information from the RTI has exposed the PMPML administration, said Kesekar.

The information pointed out that only 14 PMPML bus stops in Pune have drinking water facilities, while only 25 bus stops have public toilet facilities, of which only six have latrines.

“Public transport system is meant for the common people who never asked for lavish facilities. Ahead of the summer season, if only 14 bus stops in the city have water facility, where should the common public go? They cannot afford expensive bottled water,” said Kesekar.

Bad condition of toilet at a bus stand near Pune Corporation on Monday. (HT Photo)

In his RTI, he also demanded information about the availability of loudspeaker facilities, used to announce arrival and departure of buses. However, according to the information received, only seven bus stops in the city have loudspeakers and none of the bus stops have safety equipment, such as fire extinguisher and first-aid units.

Meanwhile, PMPML chief Nayana Gunde said, “It is very difficult to provide toilet facility at every bus stop as we have very limited space available near the bus stop. We will soon look into the drinking water, safety and first-aid measures matters.”

Kesekar further said, “Most of the women generally take PMPML buses for commuting across the city. Hence, it is the responsibility of the PMPML to provide clean public toilets for them. Why should they roam around the city in search of public toilets?”

Kesekar visited more than 100 bus stops to find out the reality of the availability of basic amenities at the bus stops. As far as first aid units are concerned, he found that not a single bus stop had a first aid unit. He also observed that not a single fire extinguisher was present at the bus stops to avoid any fire incident.

First Published: Mar 06, 2018 14:46 IST