A Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) bus driver barrelled around Pune city in his vehicle for some 16 km and 45 minutes on Wednesday morning,crushing to death eight people,injuring 24 and slamming into several vehicles on the way.
The bizarre,bloodsoaked ride ended after police who had earlier fired 10 rounds in an attempt to force the driver to pull up and the public got on to the bus after it slowed upon hitting two cars.
The wife and doctor of the driver,39-year-old Santosh Maruti Mane,said he was overstressed and suffering from serious mental illness for the last two years. The doctor,Solapur psychiatrist Dilip Burate,told The Indian Express that he had told Mane that he was unfit to drive and must quit.
MSRTC managing director Deepak Kapoor said Mane had been involved in five accidents in 11 years of service. For two of these accidents,he had been punished with a stoppage of increments. Kapoor insisted,however,that the incidents were minor because in all these mishaps,there were not fatalities.
Corporation officials said Mane had never complained of stress.
Police said the driver,a native of Kavthale village in Solapur district,was supposed to drive a Pune-Waduste bus from the Swargate depot at 10.15 am. At around 8 am,however,he climbed into a parked Pune-Satara bus,started it with a master key,and drove out of the depot. He rushed along Shankar Sheth Road,driving on the wrong side,and hit a vehicle near Hotel Seven Loves. A bystander called police control room,and soon,two officers on a bike were on Mane tail.
Mane kept driving at a very high speed,frequently on the wrong sidefor about 15 km,via Swargate,Golibar Maidan,Bhavani Peth,Gultekdi,Maharashi Nagar,Satara Road,Mitramandal Chowk,Sarasbaug and Sinhagad Road,knocking down several pedestrians,two-wheelers and cars. He ignored 10 rounds fired at the bus by police naik Deepak Kakade.
Mane was finally forced to slow down after two cars that he hit on Sinhagad Road near Sarasbaug stopped in his way. Among those who jumped in and overpowered Mane was Sharif Ibrahim Kutti,a third year BCA student of Poona College,who chased the bus on his bike from Golibar Maidan.
We fired at the bus but the driver did not stop. He was taking sharp turns and driving on the wrong side, Kakade said.
Police Commissioner Meeran Borwankar said Mane would be charged with mass murder. He was working till Tuesday evening. Investigation is on to know what made him take charge of the Pune-Satara bus, she said.
Dr Burate told The Indian Express over the phone from Solapur that Mane had gone to him with complaints of hallucinations,and had been talking many irrelevent things.
As I remember the case and based on the documents that I have found in my records,he had either schizophrenia or mania. He had come to me for a month after that and I had prescribed medication. But he stopped coming to me after that.
Manes wife Sonali said her husband was under severe pressure and stress at work,and would frequently shout at her and their children. He repeatedly requested MSRTC not to put him on long routes. But he was forced to drive these long routes. He faced problems earlier too due to stress at work. He had also taken a months leave for treatment, she said.
A senior officer from Pune Polices Crime Branch who was present when Mane was interrogated,said he was blabbering. When we asked his name,he took the name of a veteran politician. He also said that he does not remember anything of what had just happened, said the officer.