This could be no comforting thought if you commute through Ahmedabads chaotic traffic on private buses plying for the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Services (AMTS). Your bus driver may be someone who has never been to a driving school.
In some cases,he may have a motorcycle driving licence; in others,the man driving the bus may actually be an autorickshaw or a taxi driver. At least,this is what investigations at some of the citys major bus stations reveal.
The AMTS accident log,for its own and for the private buses,are explicit: Last year, the AMTS own buses killed six people and were involved in 58 major and 198 minor accidents. But private buses plying for AMTS killed 27 people and were involved in 153 major and 398 minor accidents.
The transport regulations require a bus driver to procure a light motor vehicle (LMV) licence first. It is only after driving an LMV for two years that he can be tested for a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licence. After two years of driving a heavy goods vehicle the driver can get a heavy passenger vehicle (HPV) licence.
But there is no regular screening or checking of private bus drivers,and checking is frowned upon.
Newsline looked into three major AMTS bus depots in the city with an AMTS checker who agreed to do his job,and the findings were far from heart warming.
Here is the probe log:
9:30pm (Feb 18) – PALDI DEPOT,AHMEDABAD
Private buses begin coming to the Paldi Bus Depot. The checking starts.
9:43pmThe driver of the first bus comes out to hand over the keys. The AMTS checker asks for his driving licence. Surprised,he retorts: Aaaje licence su kaam check karo cho bhai? Kai kaas che? (Why are you the checking the licence? Is there something special today?)
9:45pmAnother bus arrives; the driver sees the checking going on,tries to escape. The checker runs after him to ask for the licence; the diver claims he has no licence handy with him. The checker persists,asks for the licence number; the driver runs away,jumps into another AMTS bus passing by,and gets away.
10:15pmOne driver,clearly drunk,jumps off his parked bus,walks up and retorts to the checker: Sache licence joyiye? Dekhadu? Sache joiye? (Do you really want to check my licence? Really? Are you sure?)
Annoyed,the checker shouts at him and asks him to go home and get the licence. The checker explains: Every night,after the second shift,some of them come in this condition. They even get into a scuffle with us; so we avoid checking them.
11:05pmOne driver does not return after entering the depot for a long time. The checker finds the boy hiding in the mens washroom. Having no licence,he gets away telling the checker that the licence is at his home.
12:06amThe last bus enters. The driver (a former AMTS driver) himself shows the licence and says,Had you been checking licences daily,special checking wouldnt have taken place.
12:15amThe checking gets over.
Tally:12without driving licences,not counting some with motorcycle/autorickshaw licences.
5am (Feb 19)- JAMALPUR DEPOT-AHMEDABAD
5:00amThe workshop managers open the gate of the Jamalpur Depot. The drivers start coming.
5-20amOne driver says: Atyare nathi pan rasta ma maru ghar aavshe atle leto jais. (I dont have it right now. But my house is in the middle of my bus route; I will collect it). He is asked to go and collect it right away. The driver picks up a fight,relents,and leaves for home.
5:31amAnother driver asks the checker: Licence che. Shu karvu che joyine (I have a licence. What will you do anyway by checking it?) The checker asks him to show the licence. The man only has an auto rickshaw driving licence. The checker tells him to surrender the licence; the driver refuses and the checker throws him out.
5:52amThe checking gets over. The checker informs that many a times the operators send drivers with HPV licence and later hand over buses to drivers with no licence or LMV licences.
The tally:One 1 with LMV licence and 5 without any kind of licenses.
(A simultaneous checking was done done at 5am- Feb 19 at AKBARNAGAR DEPOT.
Tally: 6without any kind of driving licences.
Mangal Patel from the Ahmedabad General Mazdoor Union (AGMU),said: Most of these cases occur at the Wadaj and Memco Depot. At Memco,at least 10 of the 80 drivers have only autorickshaw licenses. At Wadaj,the drivers of Barnecha Group were booked for rash driving and fatal accidents last year.
Ganpat Patel,Depot Inspector of Lal Darwaja Depot confessed: We check the licences when there are accidents or some issues in the buses. Otherwise,we only maintain the records of accidents.
Regional Transport Office officials plainly denied that they had anything to do with the private bus drivers driving with autorickshaw or LMV licences.
After issuing the licences,the RTO cannot do much because it is the responsibility of the bus owner or the AMTS to check the licences.
AMTS chairman Pravin Patel conceded that things were tough. Knowing these problems,we have introduced a proper training and a GPS system to keep a check on these drivers. The drivers are young and do not listen to the operators. If they are held up for some issue,they simply hand over the keys of the bus and go and join another bus operator.