Safety takes backseat in sleeper buses

Safety takes backseat in sleeper buses

Last week’s bus tragedy near Hiriyur in Chitradurga district, that killed six people, has put the focus back on the safety measures that ought to be in place in sleeper buses.

The State Transport authorities are yet to ensure that the buses have proper emergency doors and exits, even after two bus infernos last year, near Mahabubnagar in Andhra Pradesh and Haveri that killed scores of people.

Safety aspects are largely missing in these customised buses, with upper and lower berths on both sides. This barely leaves any space for passengers to walk. The buses have no hammers and no emergency exit doors, which are mandatory for all other luxury buses.

Legal experts say that no definition exists for a sleeper coach in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and so the State government is not empowered to frame rules for sleeper coaches. It started giving permits to sleeper buses, through a notification issued in 2006.
A representation has been given to the Transport commissioner and the Transport Minister to discontinue the practice.

Transport department officials claim that they are well within their rights to have come up with the notification. At the same time, if there is a need to relook at it, that can be done, said an official of the department.

Siji Malayil, a lawyer in the High Court of Karnataka, said that if the rules of the State government are contrary to the Act, these need to be set aside. State governments have powers to frame rules derived from the Central laws or Acts, he said.

In several other states, the matter pertaining to validity of the permits to run the sleeper buses is in the respective courts for the same reason.

Besides the private bus operators, the State-run KSRTC buses also have sleeper coaches on certain routes and the officials of the KSRTC maintain that they are just the bus operators and the permits are given by the Transport department.

Sources said that many private bus operators get the luxury buses converted into sleeper coaches outside the State and then get them registered outside, as the Transport department does not give permits for luxury buses to be converted into sleeper coaches.

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