Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blueline Buses vs Delhiites - Total Madness

Blueline Buses vs Delhiites - Total Madness

"To err is human, to blame it on someone else is politics."

blue line bus blueline buses dtc accident deaths injured menace new delhiIn the past one year, Blueline buses in New Delhi (the local public transport system) have been involved in many accidents. The media all along has been blaming the bus drivers and conductors for the accidents and asking the government to implement stringent measures to curb the 'menace'. Blueline bus drivers and conductors, not being of the 'English' speaking variety have been unable to get their side of the story across. I have been traveling by Blueline buses for a long time now and here are details of some incidents I have witnessed -

- A senior passenger in a Blueline suddenly learns that he boarded the wrong bus. As the bus is maneuvering a roundabout outside Parliament house, he rushes to the back door of the bus and jumps off. His head smacks into the ground. The bus driver stops the bus and runs away. Police refuse to let the reserve driver start the bus. Angry passengers yell at the police saying it is not the drivers fault.

- Two youths are sitting on the pavement near Central Secretariat and arguing. The signal is red. A bus is approaching. One youth runs and lies down before the wheels of the bus as a threat to his friend. The signal turns green and the bus driver is unable to break in time. Headlines in the paper, 'The Blueline menace continues."

- Ring Road - There are plenty of underground crossings, however, two boys decide they want to dodge speeding cars. They carelessly run across the road and jump over the central barricade. They are fortunate to escape.

- Okhla - The buses are overcrowded during office hours - 9.00 am to 10.00 am. Police have impounded many buses, making the situation even worse. They are challaning (giving tickets) to every bus that has people hanging from the doors. The conductor keeps yelling to folks hanging from the doors, "andar khali padi hain, bhai, gate par khada mat hona, challan tum bharoge." (stand inside, don't hang from the door, brother, you will have to pay the challan.) People don't bother, they have to reach office on time at any cost. Suddenly, one guy gets smacked on the back as the bus passes another stationery bus.

- Lajpat Nagar Crossing - Even though there is a subway, people prefer to cross the road dangerously rather than walk the extra meter. They also get off at the signal from a moving bus to avoid the walk from the bus stop to the office. At the bus stop, people are standing right till the middle of the road so that they can spot the bus number as it arrives. A junior cop tells them to move back. They refuse and start arguing.

- Paharganj - Two middle aged men are having a blast hanging out the back door of the bus. They are chest banging each other and yelling. The conductor shouts at them to get in and behave. They refuse and continue. Suddenly, the branches of a passing tree smacks them from behind.

- Safdarjung Madarsa - A motorcyclist is driving alongside a bus. Suddenly, he decides to take a u turn. The driver swerves and brakes to avoid the biker. Lots of insults are exchanged.

- A beggar with a bottle runs and lies down under a stopped bus at a signal. The conductor gets off, drags him from under the bus and gives him two slaps.

- My real fat friend and I sprint across the road wearing high heels in front of a Blueline bus. Reaching the other side we start laughing and saying, 'Bach gaya, jaan hatheli pe rakh kar." (We escape, by the skin of our teeth)

The point I am making here is that not all accidents are the fault of the Blueline bus driver. Accidents are a statistic and they are bound to happen. In fact, road accidents are the single largest cause of deaths worldwide. People, whether drivers or pedestrians are bound to make errors in judgment once in a while. Luck also plays a major part in this.

A Blueline bus driver should be held guilty only in cases where he was clearly at fault such as -
- Drunken driving
- Hitting a stationary vehicle at the signal
- Hitting pedestrians who were on the pavement
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Speaking on the mobile phone while driving and other such cases.

Recently, there was an accident at Badarpur, where a Blueline bus ran over a group of village women. These women were crossing the road to catch another bus at an undesignated bus stop. The Bluelines faced widespread condemnation in the media. The government was forced to pay 1 lakh compensation to each of the accident victims after the outbreak of violence in the area and the resulting media outcry.

I listened to the comments of fellow commuters and realized that most people were not that sympathetic towards the accident victims. This is some of what I heard -
  • "Yeh ladies jo bahar se aati hain, inko road cross karna nahin aata. Unka dimaag hi nahin hain" (These village ladies don't know how to cross the road. They have no brain)
  • "Chalo ungli kaat lete hain, phir wahan jakar muavza claim karenge." (Let's cut a finger and later claim compensation.)
  • "Sari musibaton ka jad, yeh media wale hain." (The media is the root of all problems.)

Two years ago, when I enrolled myself in a car driving school, the first thing that the instructor told me was, "Agar kabhi kisi ko thok diya, toh wahan rukna mat. Bhag jao. Logon ka gussa itna garam hota hai, ki woh aapko udhar hi peetkar maar denge. Inko pata hain, ki chod diya toh tumhara kuch nahin hoga. Baad mein police station jaakar surrender kar lena." (If you ever kill someone while driving, run away. The people at the accident site get so angry that they will beat you to death. They know that if they let you go, nothing will happen to you. Later on, you can surrender at the police station if you wish.)

As I practiced driving I realized that it was too risky to drive a vehicle on the roads of Delhi. Pedestrians just keep coming out of nowhere. I took to traveling by bus as the most safe and economical way of transport. Being a regular Delhiite, I have also been guilty of many of the offenses I listed above. Every time I escape, I plan to change my behavior, but still end up repeating the very same mistakes. (mostly road crossings, hanging from buses, getting off at signals, jumping off a running bus etc.)

blue line bus blueline buses dtc accident deaths injured menace new delhiWhy do only Blueline buses get into trouble ? Why not DTC (government Delhi Transport Undertaking) buses?

There are fewer DTC buses than there are Bluelines. As Bluelines are private buses, many people either do not buy a ticket or buy a lower priced ticket for a longer distance. DTC buses are routinely checked by ticket checkers, so people are afraid to do the same here. If caught, a person has to pay a fine of Rs.100 or face a jail term.

The Solution To The Issue

blue line bus blueline buses dtc accident deaths injured menace new delhiMany media organizations have suggested better quality buses, more experienced drivers and new transport systems as a solution to this problem. However, this will never work if Delhiites continue to live dangerously by misbehaving on the roads.

The government has repeatedly been putting public service announcements in local dailies telling people to cross roads carefully and use buses properly. Messages on road etiquette are also being played though loud speakers at a few public intersections. However, much more needs to be done.

The only solution to this issue is that people in Delhi should be forced to behave by making jaywalking punishable with a fine and/or a jail term. Currently, pedestrians and bus passengers face no penalty for misbehavior. Most people have the 'Sab Chalta Hain' (Everything goes, who cares) attitude. The government should take a brave step and blame the people directly. We all know that we are at fault. The fear of losing cash is the best motivation towards sensible road behavior.

Impounding buses and canceling permits only makes the transport system in the city worse. People are forced to catch the remaining few crowded buses. This makes for an uncomfortable journey and an increase in accidents. Until then, the Blueline madness continues......

Mrs. Shiela Dixit, Chief Minister of Delhi, are you listening ???


  1. the only solution to India's traffic problem is public transport system.... a bus takes much less space and creates far less pollution than 50 cars/motorcycles/autos.

    we can have 2 options... have the government busses... which have less frequency... cover limited routes and still make losses... or we can have a private bus service where the bus ply for longer hours, carry more people, and pays taxes/license fees etc. instead of making losses.

    what i cannot understand is that all the trucks, tempos, autos, taxis, are privatized... why is there no backlash against them? busses are no different from thos large vehicles... and if somebody breaks the law... tampers with the speeding meter.. book them... don't stop the service all together... how will the people commute if u stop them?

  2. For about 4 years, I have commuted to work on a motorcycle, riding 28-30 km either way, on Delhi's roads.

    In general, the road-sense of Delhi-ites is terrible.

    I have been in road-accidents more than once and have sustained injuries many a time, as a result.

    With respect to the road-sense and driving of the blue-line drivers, one quirk that I've experienced, in particular, is that when a bus has to be stopped by the road-side, the drivers do not slow down and stop behind any vehicles that are driving along the same road and in the same direction, at that point of time. Rather, they speed up, overtake and stop right in front of any such vehicles, thus helping, perhaps, the drivers to test whether the brakes of their vehicles are functioning properly! I have had to apply the brakes of my bike really hard, on numerous such occasions.

    Besides the drivers of blue-line buses often not possessing valid driving licenses or being unfit to hold a licence on account of a variety of reasons, including being underage, their working day often extends beyond the number of hours for which human reflexes can be effective. Added to this, the buses are not always in perfect condition.

    The pedestrians and cyclists too, definitely, are responsible for causing a number of road-accidents, even though the blame is usually placed on the driver of the automobile involved.

    There are always two sides to a story, I suppose.


  3. awww it is my dream to live in Delhi someday.
    but after reading this post, i changed my mind :P

  4. Ah Ha... This (Traffic Situation in Delhi) is a very controvertial subject and lot has been said and read about it. To add to it, here is my pocket change on the issue....

    Well, this problem is not that simple. Blue Line buses, or the people who ride them or the other road users topped with improper planning and population growth in Delhi are some factors to contribute to this over all problem. Planning of any city is done keeping in mind coming 20,30 or 50 yrears. This was not at all done while Delhi evolved from 50's and 60's. I have known where Delhi's Minister of Transport had come to Canada to study the traffic system, but I have not seen anything implemented. These are trips where expense is payed by the tax payers and nothing concrete comes out of it. On top of that people who call Delhi home (including me until 1998) have very little or no CIVIC sense at all. Everybody has become so self centered that they become the devils behind the wheels, forget about showing courtsey to the other drivers and the pedestrians (I think no one knows what is defensive driving there). Pedestrians also jump on to the road where ever they feel like to get across to the other side. Well, it may be due to their limited civic sense, but I have not seen too many pedestrian crossing on long roads in Delhi. And where there are (crosswalks), traffic on red light stops on it so they become useless. (Just to add how seriously people follow rules in this part of the world, a pedestrian can also get a ticket for improper use of roads, they call it "Jay walking" here.)

    I can go on, but the point is that it is (traffic situation)a pretty complex problem in Delhi. And influx of people into Delhi is never going to end. So looks like that it will get even more complex over a period of time. There has been development certainly since I moved to Canada, but the developement has to keep its pace with the population explosion. I believe Delhi has well over 100 million people (10 crores)or is it 1 crore. What ever it may be but around 10,000 people per sq. Km. is a really bad situation.

  5. so true.
    put fine on jaywalking
    and it will surely make the state exchequer full really fast, at the very least.
    indians don't have any road ettiqutities or descipline


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