The private buses of Ernakulam-Kochi, the mainstay of the city's public transport options, have progressed from being a menace on the city's roads to an outright danger to life. The were called the “Red Devils” before, but now with the body count stacking up, they are called the “Red Killers of Kochi“. And two days back, they claimed their latest victim.
Take a look at the video below. (Warning: Not for weak hearts)
The video invokes sadness, anger and outrage at everything that is wrong with our system. The over speeding driver tried to overtake other buses waiting at the signal through the wrong side, lost control, jumped the footpath, hit and crushed poor John standing there (he even tried to run away, but..) and came to a halt after smashing into a building. Condolences to his family, and let his soul rest in peace :( Watch the video from Asianet news here)
Just a couple of weeks before, after another ghastly accident took out four lives when a private bus flew into a highway junction at high speed into oncoming traffic and smashed into a KSRTC Super Fast (Pictures) coming from the opposite direction! You are not safe inside the buses, in other buses, in other vehicles, on the footpath and even inside buildings when these buses are around. You can run, but you can never hide! Public anger at these buses have peaked after a string of accidents, but the 'authorities' do what they always do: make hollow statements like they have "'banned' overtaking", and have 'registered cases' and so on.
Kochi's private buses have gained the same notoriety as had the erstwhile BlueLines of Delhi. They race at breakneck speeds converting Kochi's famously narrow roads into impromptu racing tracks to cover the most distance, overtake the maximum number of other vehicles, pick up and throw off (literally) as many passengers as possible in the least time with least regard to irrelevant things such as traffic rules, other vehicles etc. Oh no, and you dare not day anything against them! Most of the owners of these buses are powerful people, the crew are rude, crass, abusive, sometimes drunk and allegedly with criminal backgrounds who think they need not fear anything or anybody. Watch the video below (Malayalam)
A ban ala Delhi seems improbable, as people who should be doing it don't seem to be interested. It leaves us that the only way these red coffins on wheels will disappear from Kochi is by people rejecting them, refusing to board them. And that is actually happening today, thanks to KSRTC. KSRTC has recently introduced ordinary city services under the name “Thiru-Kochi”, double-decker buses and premium low-floor Volvo services (under the JN-NURM scheme) as an alternative to private buses, all of which have been an instant hit with the city's public who were fed up with private buses, Now, provided with an alternative, commuters are shifting to KSRTC en-masse and patronage and collections for private buses have taken a serious hit. So much so that many private bus operators are forced to pull their buses off the roads. Deccan Chronicle even ran an article speculating that due to this process of natural selection by commuters, the red killers might even become extinct in around two years, disappearing from the city roads. Even if that does not happen, the clear disenchantment the public has towards them should make them realize that they need to pull themselves up, drive sensibly and behave like human beings if they are to survive. And they should realize that trying to derail KSRTC services using dubious means will only hit back at them.
A small thought to close: do we really need private buses? Not just the city services but intercity services as well when operators themselves say that these buses are hardly profitable.
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