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Letters to Editor 09-04-2008

Dangerous wheels

By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 9.04.08

Dangerous wheels

Sir — The shocking and tragic incident of a bus overturning and falling into a canal, killing almost half the passengers on board, was something that should have been anticipated (“Bus sinks”, April 5). The bus, on the 217B route, swerved to overtake an autorickshaw on the VIP Road stretch, skidded on dredged mud and lost control, and finally fell into the Bagjola canal, killing 20 people within minutes. Bus drivers are often found racing one another at breakneck speed on Calcutta’s roads. The traffic police seldom penalize the drivers for speeding. Moreover, the vehicles also impede traffic movement by blocking roads to pick and drop passengers. Why cannot the police stop buses from halting at busy intersections? Calcutta’s traffic moves haphazardly at most of its four-or-five-point crossings. The traffic police seem to be complacent about this and do not feel the need to remedy the situation. It is high time that stringent actions were taken against all the errant drivers of public transport vehicles. Incidentally, Calcutta’s pedestrians are no less responsible for accidents, what with their habitual disregard for zebra crossings and traffic lights.

Yours faithfully,
Amit Brahmo, Calcutta

Sir — The delay in trained rescue operations after the bus accident in Kestopur has once again exposed the lack of a functional disaster-management system in the city. The police rescue team arrived hours after the accident. Had it been quicker, a few more lives could have been saved. Bus drivers in the city have no concept of lane-driving, and cut across lanes at will. This, naturally, leads to accidents. What is most curious is that there are hundreds of policemen posted at various crossings and sergeants patrol the streets regularly. Yet, road accidents continue to take place. The motor vehicles department should also be blamed for issuing permits and licences to reckless drivers.

Yours faithfully,
Raj Bagri, Calcutta

Sir — The total chaos in our public transport system is an administrative problem that has been allowed to fester for too long. Transport unions that are backed by politicians are given a free rein to operate on their own terms. The traffic police get their monthly packet from the bus owners, so they have no impetus to check the regular flouting of rules. It is not the system of payment on a commission basis that causes the repeated incidents of rash driving. The agreement between the owners of public transport vehicles and their drivers is not a matter for the government to dwell on. Its task is to enforce traffic laws and see to it that nobody gets away with breaking the law. When private vehicles are not let off for traffic misdemeanours, why should public transport be spared?

Yours faithfully,
Dhrubo Mukerjee, Calcutta

Sir — The fact that Calcutta’s killers on wheels are still trusted with ferrying thousands of commuters comes as a shock. It is hardly a secret that the transport department issues fake licences without verifying the credentials of applicants. Vehicles that are far from roadworthy ply the streets regularly. The driver of the bus that fell into the Bagjola canal may have been arrested. But will this put an end to accidents? Unlikely. For that to happen, the administration has to addresses the lapses on its part. In February, a truck driver in Durgapur was burnt to death by an angry mob for running over a child (“Truck driver burnt to death after crash”, Feb 21). Even such a show of public anger has not put the fear of god in these unreliable drivers. If the government takes an initiative to do away with the commissioning system and puts the drivers under a salary bracket, they would then desist from putting passengers’ lives into jeopardy in order to earn their living. Passengers themselves often put pressure on the drivers to drive faster and they should be alerted to the dangers of exceeding the speed limits.

Yours faithfully,
Subhankar Mukherjee, Burdwan

Sir — If the government is serious about curbing road accidents, it must immediately announce two crucial measures. The first would have to be a ban on the commission system among private bus syndicates. The second is exemplary punishment to bus drivers. A reckless driver should be charged with culpable homicide, amounting to murder, and if found guilty, given the death sentence in cases like the recent one in Kestopur, which led to the death of a large number of passengers.

Yours faithfully,
Moli Bhowmick, Calcutta

Sir — I cannot figure out how a chief minister who is hell-bent on getting foreign investment and technology giants to his state can be so apathetic to the menace of rash driving in the capital city. The traffic signals in Calcutta do not function properly most of the time. So it would be too much to expect that devices such as digital spy cameras would be installed to catch errant drivers as in the West. Road tax and licence fees have been hiked in the past in the hope of controlling rash driving, but to little effect. One hopes that the Opposition would not call a bandh to protest against the government’s indifference as strikes seldom help produce the desired results.

Yours faithfully,
S.A. Rahman Barkati, Calcutta

Sir — The bus that sank in the Bagjola canal killing 20 passengers is symbolic of the sinking standards of not only the government’s disaster management team but also the police and the transport department. I have a few suggestions to make in this regard. The “commission system” of payment to drivers and conductors of buses is faulty. It maximizes profit at the cost of the safety of passengers and pedestrians and needs to be banned. All buses should have emergency exits on the right-hand side and window grills should be dismantled, as they are not essential for safety. Open windows, on the other hand, would make rescue operations easier. There has to be better co-ordination between the police, the fire brigade and rescue teams. Tests for drivers of heavy motor vehicles should be made more rigorous.

The Telegraph should be commended for highlighting the repeated traffic mishaps in the city. Though it may be too much to expect our authorities to act with efficiency, one cannot help but keep up the hope.

Yours faithfully,
Probir Sen, Calcutta