Despite hundreds of modern luxury buses the Volvos,Mercedes-Benzs,the Marcopolos joining the fleets of state and private operators across the country in the past decade,much of the regulatory mechanism remains the same,governed by the 24-year-old Central Motor Vehicles Act of 1988.
In Karnataka,rules framed in 1989 under MV Act are followed,even though government and private operators have rolled out over 1,000 luxury buses. Transport authorities said this put the lives of lakhs of passengers travelling long distances at risk.
In the last two months alone there have been four fires on luxury buses operating out of Karnataka. In one of the worst bus tragedies in recent times,45 people were charred when a Bangalore-Hyderabad Volvo burst into flames near Mahbubnagar in Andhra Pradesh after hitting a kerb in the wee hours of Oct 30 .
The passengers had no clue the bus glass needed to be shattered for emergency exit.
Thursday early morning,another Volvo caught fire after a minor accident. This time,though,most passengers on the bus managed to shatter the glass and only seven died. The other two accidents on government buses occurred in daytime and there was no casualty.
These buses have computer controls,electronic panels. There is a complex framework of software and hardware peripherals,it is as good as operating an aircraft. But the Central Motor Vehicles Act barely makes a distinction between manual vehicles and high-end automated ones, a senior regional transport official in the Karnataka government said.
Modern buses do not provide adequate ventilation as mandated by the 1988 Act. While an emergency exit door is mandatory in government-run luxury buses in Karnataka,private operators pack buses with additional seats, leaving no scope for emergency exit.
Further,the Central Motor Vehicles Act prescribes a minimum 10th standard qualification for drivers of heavy luxury buses. But the syllabus is designed for manual vehicles and so,most drivers are clueless on commanding luxury buses on long routes.
While you can rely on experience to operate manual heavy vehicles,it is not the same with luxury buses. It is dangerous to allow drivers to ply automated buses unless they have expertise in its computer core and peripherals, a transport official said.
Regional transport officials also pointed out that despite repeated efforts,private players often with political connections had managed to prevent the fixing of a luggage limit. They even keep metals,paint,soft wood and delicate fabric,which can easily catch fire due to heat or friction,in the luggage compartment against rules.
Woken by crash,couple followed youth to safety
Bangalore: The loud noise created by the National Travels bus crashing into a road divider stirred awake bank employee Dileep Shinde and his wife Shobhalakshmi,who were returning after meeting their son in Bangalore. The couple seated near the driver noticed smoke filling the main cabin of the bus and other passengers trying to break glass windows with emergency equipment and jumping out. They followed suit and survived.
I was sleeping and woke suddenly around 2.30 am hearing a huge noise. I understood the bus had hit a road median. Smoke was entering the passenger cabin from below. My wife and me were sitting near the driver. A youth broke open a window and jumped out. We followed him, said Dileep,a Central Bank employee in Satara,Maharashtra.
Some others sitting right behind us were charred. People were screaming for over 30 minutes before help arrived, he said.
The couple sustained minor injuries and were treated at KIMS Hospital in Hubli.
Many passengers were saved because of the youth breaking open the glass window but Haveri Superintendent of Police N Shashikumar said they had not been able to identify him.
Apart from the Shindes,Sher Lal of Rajasthan,bus cleaner Wajir Abdul Udas,Mohammed Bashir of Bangalore,Rajendra Surasai of Mumbai were injured in the accident.
Sources at KIMS Hospital said the Shindes and Surasai were out of danger but the other three were critical.
The bodies of the seven dead are being preserved at KIMS Hospital for DNA tests. DNA samples will be collected and matched with those of blood relatives at a Hyderabad laboratory.
Chiranjeevi meets family of fan killed in October 30 accident
Bangalore: Union Minister for Tourism and Telugu actor Chiranjeevi was in Bangalore on Thursday to meet the family of a fan club president killed in the Volvo bus accident near Mahbubnagar in Andhra Pradesh on October 30.
S Venkatesh Yadav,state president of Akhila Karnataka Annayya Chiranjeevi Fans Welfare Association,and sister Anitha were going to Hyderabad to invite relatives and the actor to the wedding of his niece. Both were charred in the accident with 43 others.
Chiranjeevi and his son,actor Ram Charan Teja,visited the house of Venkatesh in Kalasipalya at around 4.30 pm on Thursday and offered condolences and support to his family.