T Bikshapathi Goud, driver of the ill-fated school bus that was hit by a passenger train at an unmanned crossing in Telangana’s Medak district leading to the death of 15 children, was actually a tractor driver whose services were sought by Kakatiya Techno School at the last minute.
The school kept him as a standby driver, in case the regular diver does not report. “It was Bikshapathi’s first day on this bus and on this particular route. He was also late for the school,’’ said state Home Minister N Narasimha Reddy.
According to Secunderabad Railway Police (Rural), which is investigating the incident, Bikshapathi was already late as he did not know the points from where to pick up the children. “He was probably trying to make up for the lost time and was at the railway crossing at 9.10 am. He had only 20 minutes to reach the school before its gate is shut. The school was 7 km away, a 10-15 minute drive and the driver probably thought he could beat the train and cross the tracks even when other vehicles at the crossing were waiting for the train to pass,’’ a railway police official said.
After the mishap, neither Kakatiya Group director P Sitaram Reddy nor his senior management staff were available, and officials at the Group’s head office at L B Nagar stonewalled any effort to reach its directors. “Sir and others have probably gone to the site… We don’t have their numbers,” a staffer said.
The Kakatiya Techno Schools is a chain of institutions from KG to Class X. Except for 10 schools in Hyderabad, all other 39 schools are franchisees. The Group has seven in Medak district.
Thursday morning, as soon as the news came in that a bus of their school at Tooparan was involved in an accident, the only reaction from the Group was that it was a franchisee and the organisation has nothing to with it. After no one from the management could be reached.
The school at Toparan wore a deserted look as the management sent back all the students who had already reached there. The main gate was locked and even watchman was not present.
‘Expressway’ for trains, yet no gate — a work in progress
Hyderabad: In railway manual, it simply has a number — UMLC no. 233. But on Thursday morning, this unmanned railway level crossing near Masaipet village in Medak district was the scene of a major tragedy as the Nanded-Secunderabad Passenger train hit a school bus with 36 kids on board, killing 15 children and the driver and the helper.
The tragedy could have been avoided had the South Central Railway installed a gate. On an average 21 trains — 15 Express, two superfast , and four passenger trains —pass through this unmanned crossing between Masaipet and Wadiram railway stations.
Masaipet unmanned level crossing was identified to be converted into a gated crossing in 2012. Except gate, all the infrastructure — watchman’s room, pillars for erecting the barriers, signal lights and switch room — required to man it have already been constructed or installed.
“There is a proposal by the SCR to convert all unmanned railway level crossings in the zone into manned ones, but the work is still in progress. At Masaipet, most of the work is done and only the gate is to be installed,” SCR PRO K Sambasiva Rao said.