To most road users, the sight of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses is a cause for worry over life and limb. Often, these buses are driven recklessly fast, wading through crowded roads, leading to accidents, which on many occasions become fatal. Though MTC officials maintain that they take action against drivers involving in fatal accidents, the reality seems to be quite the opposite.
According to MTC officials, though there were 69 fatal accidents last year, currently, only 10 drivers are on suspension. Although the police have registered cases against the accused drivers, reliable sources said that since all the drivers belong to unions, several of the cases are diverted against victims in court.
According to the police, on an average, the city and suburbs are witnessing six to seven fatal accidents per month.
“We ensure that the cases are booked properly, but all the drivers manage to get bail in the station itself, without getting remanded. If the drivers are involved in multiple fatalities, we will remand them,” said a police official.
A tight deadline on running time is said to be one of the main factors for the accidents. S Veeraragavan, Secretary of Tamil Nadu Transport Retired Employees Association (MTC branch), said that the running time between the prescribed destinations should be increased. “The MTC has not increased the running time for the last two decades. Unlike in the past, there are more number of vehicles on the road. The population is also on the rise in the city. In such conditions, they drive the buses very fast to reach their destinations. This raises the probability of accidents,” he said. However, he conceded that rash driving takes place deliberately, on some occasions.
An MTC driver, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said, “Since we have to complete our shifts within the prescribed time, we need to drive fast. We are also drawing flak for no fault of ours, as pedestrians and motorists cross the roads without noticing the buses.”
When contacted, V Krishnamurthy, Managing Director, MTC, said, “We are always serious about accident cases, which cannot be taken lightly and we are punishing the drivers involved in accidents, particularly when there is fatality. We also warn drivers not to indulge in rash driving.” Drivers causing fatal accidents would be suspended for one month, and their licences confiscated, after which they would be sent to the Institute of Road Transport (IRT) for training programme, he added. “FIRs against drivers involved in fatal accidents are properly registered. Since fault will be on the victims’ side in 90 per cent of the cases, the drivers are released,” he added.
An accident case would be filed in the area police station. If the court orders compensation to the victim, the MTC would pay the same in some cases. According to officials, no case has so far gone beyond three months and many cases are solved within two months.
In cases where people suffer grievous injuries, the MTC would cut drivers’ salary or incentives for two months, based on the extent of injury and damage of buses. For minor injuries, the drivers would be suspended for two to three days.