‘Killer’ buses off Delhi roads, but commuters suffer


New Delhi : Tens of thousands of commuters in the Indian capital had a tough time travelling to their destinations Wednesday as the majority of the "killer" Blueline buses stayed off the roads to avoid disciplinary action.

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Commuters from all parts of Delhi and its satellite towns had to wait for about half an hour to two hours to catch a bus to their desired destinations as over 60 percent of the 4,200 privately operated Blueline buses did not ply on the roads.

"I have been waiting for almost one hour to catch a bus from ITO to Hauz Khas. The numbers of DTC buses are few and Bluelines are not coming at all," said Geeta Rani, a commuter.

"I have been waiting to go to Badarpur for nearly 45 minutes. Only one bus came but it was jam-packed. I don't know when will I be able to reach home," said Lokesh Kumar, who was stranded in Connaught Place in the heart of the city.

Amid all the suffering, some commuters were a happy lot. "Though we are getting late yet it's better than being killed by Bluelines. The drivers are completely reckless and conductors behave badly with passengers," said Parsuram, a commuter.

"The government should not bow under the pressure of these bus operators. These bus drivers and their owners need to be handled strongly to reduce road fatalities," he said.

Transport ministry officials said they are planning to "declare ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act)" if the situation continues. The ESMA Act is invoked in emergency situations to bring normalcy to public life and helps in maintaining certain essential services.

"We have one option in the form of ESMA but it may be declared after due consultation. The transport minister may take a call on it if the situation did not improve," a transport ministry official said.

Bluelines have killed 61 people so far this year and injured at least 145 others. Since July 1, the buses have mowed down five people, including two teenagers.

These buses, indispensable for the ordinary commuter but dubbed 'killer buses' because of their almost daily involvement in accidents, have been killing scores of people every year as authorities have looked away.

Many of the Bluelines buses are owned by influential politicians or even families of police officers.

Between July 1 and July 7, the owners of 4,090 Blueline buses were prosecuted and 60 drivers were arrested. Till June 30, the owners of these buses were fined at least 53,093 times.

The state-run Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses too have been responsible for 25 deaths this year.

Voicing the public distrust, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Tuesday said that she would rather walk than travel in the privately operated Bluelines.

The comment came on a day the Delhi High Court asked the city government to explain the increasing number of fatal accidents involving the Blueline buses.

Dikshit last week promised to phase out Bluelines from capital roads by 2010.