Lack of funds has resulted in poor maintenance of buses and inadequate training of drivers.
Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation is broke. So much so that the lack of funds has resulted in poor maintenance of buses and the training of drivers. This, of course, has had drastic implications. In 2018, 258 BMTC buses have met with accidents and 50 people have died, according to figures provided by the Corporation.
According to the data, out of 258 accidents, 46 of were life-threatening ones, 28 of them caused large-scale damage and 184 of them were classified as minor accidents. “This is in reference to the damage caused to human life and also the irreparable damage caused to the bus when referring to large-scale damage,” a senior BMTC official said.
In the last one year, 133 buses were severely damaged rendering 219 people injured. The number of deaths due to accidents caused by BMTC buses has doubled when compared to 2017. Last year, 29 people had died in 132 BMTC bus accidents.
The death of two teenage boys on December 20, has brought to the fore the dysfunctional system the BMTC operates on, thereby putting passengers and even other commuters on the road at risk.
The boys were hit by a BMTC bus on Mysuru Road. Chandrakanta (16) and Yadu Kumar SY (15), students of BBMP Kasturba PU College, KB Nagar on Mysuru Road were waiting near the KSRTC Satellite bus stand trying to cross the road. The bus’ brake had failed.
According to BMTC log book, the bus driver had notified BMTC of the problem with the brakes. The driver was, however, asked to drive slowly. BMTC never replaced the brakes, which resulted in the death of the two teenage boys.
As per BMTC statistics from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2017, 1,828 accidents involving BMTC buses occurred in the city. Of which, 352 were fatal, 68 major and 1,408 minor. A total of 370 were killed and 1,715 persons were injured in the accidents. A compensation of about Rs 52.68 crore has been given by the corporation under the Motor Vehicles Act.
At least 90 persons were killed in 2012-13 followed by 88 in 2013-14, 78 in 2014-15, 69 in 2015-16 and a total of 45 persons in 2016-17. While the number of fatalities has consistently dropped, this year has seen a spike.
Cash-strapped and no money for maintenance
The BMTC is currently operating on a Rs 100 crore budget for the 2018-19 fiscal. Sources in the BMTC say that the funds are not enough to pay off outstanding gratuity of retired employees.
Sources in the BMTC say that 40% of the buses have travelled 4 to 6 lakh kilometers and are in dire need of repairs and spare parts.
The lack of budgetary allocation has resulted in the agency being unable to buy spare parts for the maintenance of the buses
“If all the buses have to be in top-notch condition, then the BMTC needs Rs 3,000 crore to fix the mess it is in. The maintenance of buses does not happen properly. Brakes and steering wheels are in such horrible conditions that it becomes dangerous to drive the buses. The driver who was in the BMTC bus on December 20 had 8 years of experience. But the failure was on BMTC’s behalf,” says Nagaraj, a member of the BMTC drivers’ union — All India Trade Union Congress.
Inadequate training of drivers
According to BMTC officials, the agency has very few certified trainers to monitor the trainee drivers and coach them.
“Ideally, the trainers must have certification from the institutes in Tamil Nadu or Ballari. Only those with experience as drivers and the adequate certificates can be appointed as trainers. But in BMTC, so many of the trainers do not have the required certification. Drivers with 2 years of experience are becoming trainers,” a senior BMTC official said.
However, NV Prasad, Managing Director of BMTC said that the agency has appointed experienced drivers as trainers. He also admitted that the agency was finding it difficult to hire certified trainers.
It is very difficult to find certified trainers. So we look at experienced BMTC drivers and appoint them to train the newly inducted drivers. We are conducting weekly maintenance work and drivers who are habitual offenders are being trained too,” he added.