By Suryansh Upmanyu
Delhi’s roads are not famous for the safety of commuters. Accidents and road rage incidents take place with a frightening regularity and do not seem to subside. The situation was even worse a few years ago when blueline buses ploughed on the roads. In this article I will talk about these buses, the reason they were scrapped and the changes – if any – which have happened since then. Thank god for the Delhi metro!
HOW WERE THE BLUELINE BUSES OPERATED?
These buses were not run by the government or DTC. They were owned by individuals who leased out their permits to contractors, in return for a daily payment (usually around Rs. 3000-4000). These contractors – in order to meet their targets and earn a profit at the same time – motivated the bus drivers to carry as many passengers as possible.
The result was an overcrowding of buses and numerous accidents taking place as the drivers tried to fend off other buses right on their tails. Profit making, and not the safety of the passengers, was of primary concern.
Come 2010, the government woke up to the rising concerns of Delhiites to put a blanket ban on these buses (Maybe they would have thought,” Bus, bahot hua!”). As is always the case, it was too little, too late. The buses had already claimed hundreds of lives which were irreplaceable, whatever measures the government took. To replace them, new “low-floor” buses belonging to the Delhi Transport Corporation were brought in (The introduction of the A.C. buses was a real relief). These came with speed governors which kept a ceiling of 40 kmph on the speed at all times.
DEVELOPMENT OVER THE YEARS:
One year after the transition, road accidents still occurred with the same frequency. Apparently, this development was quite shocking. It was found that in many buses, the speed governors had been tampered with too.
I would like to point out something to all the respected uncles and aunties sitting at the highest levels of the administration. Changing the buses DOES NOT imply a change in the mentality of a driver. Give me a football from Adidas or Nike, I will play football the same way. Give a terrorist a gun or a grenade, he will still spread terror. Give a driver a blueline bus or a DTC bus, he will still drive it the same way. Because people do not change that easily.
Fast forward to the present day and to my personal experience.
- Buses do not stop at the bus stop. They just slow down, expecting us to run and jump on.
- Drivers still compete with each other to stay ahead and get the maximum number of passengers, to the point that people still hang on the doors, trying to get a foothold on the steps.
- An oncoming turn does not imply that the driver will apply the brakes. That is for sissies. The result is me grabbing the handle for dear life, feeling like Tarzan swinging on the vines of an African jungle (while uncles and aunties around me give me judgmental looks. Stop looking at me! You got that seat by asking me to get up anyway).
BUT THE NUMBER OF DEATHS DUE TO BUS ACCIDENTS HAS RELATIVELY COME DOWN. WHY IS IT SO?
The only conclusion I can draw is that the dangers on Delhi’s roads have made pedestrians more alert. Earlier in the day, people used to step out on to the roads as the bus arrived, trying to be the first one to step in (That is what I did when I was in grade 1. Grow up people!). now I feel that they are much more concerned about their own security and stay where they are until the bus stops/slows down. After all, it is survival of the fittest.
The only permanent solution – that of a change in the mentality of bus drivers to prioritise safety over speed – seems quite farfetched now. All you can do now is keep your eyes and ears open when you exit your houses. Or stay at home.