Bokaro DTO Jaideep Tigga (left) and DSP (traffic) RK Singh with one of the three seized 'double-decker' buses on Wednesday. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Keeping its word, Bokaro district administration on Wednesday started a crackdown on illegal “double-decker” buses that have increased their height to fit in bunks for passengers to sleep in, at the cost of overall safety.
Bokaro’s traffic DSP R.K. Singh and district transport officer (DTO) Jaideep Tigga conducted the joint raids. Till 3pm, three rogue buses plying from Ranchi to Dhanbad were seized at Naya More crossing, towed away to city police station and slapped fines.
The action came a day after The Telegraph reported how these “taller” buses were unsafe because people seated on the roof ran the risk of injuries, sometime leading to fatalities after brushing against low hanging electricity wires.
Sunday’s electrocution of five kanwariyas from Chas is a case in point. The pilgrims, who were on the roof of a similar double-decker bus, died after coming in contact with an overhead high-tension wire in Bihar’s Banka district.
Bokaro deputy commissioner Uma Shankar Singh had asked district transport authorities to pull up their socks and apprehend all illegally modified buses, which keep the sleeper seats hidden from authorities to evade taxes.
“Today (Wednesday) I called the DTO and other officials and asked them to start raids to seize double-decker buses that added extra sleeper seats in blatant violation of rules. These buses are not only exposing passengers to risk but are also cheating the state exchequer,” Singh said.
DTO Tigga said the seized buses had been taken to city police station. “Fines will be slapped on the owners in keeping with government rules for which direction has been sought from the Ranchi headquarters,” he said.
But as soon as news about the seizures spread, some buses plying on highways asked passengers, who had booked sleeper berths by paying extra money, to get down. Some were even dropped off at isolated spots.
Soon, agents at Bokaro bus stand began calling transporters in Ranchi and Dhanbad, warning them not to send their vehicles to Bokaro.
Raj Kumar Srivastava of Ranchi, who was forced to get down at Ukrid More, said he initially could not fathom why he was not dropped at Naya More bus stand from where he had to go to Sector IV.
“Then the conductor told us that double-decker buses were being seized and that they couldn’t take a risk by going to the terminus. I had no option but to do his bidding. As it is, these big buses lead to traffic chaos on the roads and on top of that, they flout rules. The drive against them must continue.”
Most operators of long-distance buses fabricate the illegal “sleeper seats” above the usual seats soon after buying the chassis, using aluminium sheets and plywood to elevate the height of the vehicle from a normal 10.5ft to around 14ft.
Too cramped for a comfortable night’s sleep, the sleeper seats — most long-distance buses plying at night have eight each — nonetheless offer passengers the option of stretching their legs and hence are priced at a premium.
If a seat costs Rs 100, a bunk can cost double or more.