Mandya tragedy: probe, punish guilty

Mandya tragedy: probe, punish guilty

Police, Fire and Emergency personnel in action to lift the private bus which plunged into Visvesvaraya canal at Kanaganamaradi in Padavapura taluk of Mandya district on Saturday.

Negligent driving has resulted in the death of 30 people, several of them school children, when a bus plunged into a canal near Kanaganamaradi village in Mandya district on Saturday. The bus fell on its side, blocking the exits. Just four people were able to get out of the bus safely. Preliminary investigation into the reason for the accident point in the direction of the driver, who is among the survivors. He was reportedly driving the bus at high speed and, when he had to make a right-turn, lost control of the bus, sending it into the canal. Additionally, it appears that the bus, which was registered in 2001 and plied earlier in the Dakshina Kannada (DK) district, was not in good condition. Two years ago, its certificate of fitness and stage carriage permit were cancelled. The Dakshina Kannada Regional Transport Authority declared the bus  “not road-worthy.” The owner then sold it to a bus operator outside DK—apparently the ownership of the bus has changed hands some nine times—where such rules are not rigorously enforced. If the bus was not found to be road-worthy, why was it being used to ferry passengers? The bus operator as well as road transport authorities must come clean on the condition of the bus. Stern action must be taken against those responsible for this tragedy.

According to government statistics, 10,651 people were killed in road accidents involving buses in 2017. This means that India lost 29 people per day in 2017 due to bus accidents. Karnataka accounted for around 800 of these fatalities and was among the states with the highest number of such accidents. It is time that the government acts robustly to make public transport safe.

Observing a ‘Traffic Week’ annually to highlight the problem of road safety will not by itself make passengers and pedestrians safe. Passenger and pedestrian safety must be prioritised throughout the year. Road accidents must be probed scientifically so that we can learn from past mistakes to avoid accidents in future. For instance, probes should establish accident ‘black spots’ and this information should be factored into road construction. Instances of buses falling into mountain gorges and canals are frequent in India. Yet many highways lack crash barriers. The tragedy near Kanaganamaradi village underscores the importance of road-worthiness of vehicles. Vehicles ­– especially passenger buses — that are not road-worthy must be junked and rules regarding this need to be enforced across the state. Bus operators are known to deny their drivers adequate rest. Overworked or sleep-deprived drivers end up napping at the wheel. We can reduce the number of accidents and fatalities only by respecting the dictates of passenger safety on every trip every day.

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