Mir Sabeen Gulrez
SRINAGAR: In Srinagar city, 57 people were killed in road accidents caused by overcrowded buses in the year 2017, according to figures of the traffic department. Besides the killed, 315 persons were wounded in 333 road accidents involving buses that were carrying passengers exceeding their capacity.
Despite the number of deaths and injuries, the danger still prowls the roads, with passengers clinging to roofs and doors of city buses, especially in the outskirts of Srinagar. If not hanging outside, bus passengers are sandwiched inside, with women frequently complaining of sexual harassment.
A student commuter, Hina Gulzar Bhat of Sonawar, said she faces harassment in the overcrowded public transport on Sonawar-Pantha Chowk route. “Instead of taking some action against drivers, the traffic police ignore this chronic problem,” she said.
Another commuter on the Jehangir Chowk-Bemina route, Amir Bashir of Bemina, said drivers ignore repeated requests of passengers to not overcrowd the bus. He also accused drivers of misbehaving with passengers.
In broad daylight, scores of overcrowded buses pass by traffic cops who stand as mute spectators. The Motor Vehicle Act empowers them to act against drivers if their buses are overcrowded, but they prefer to let them pass.
Superintendent of Police (City Traffic) Tahir Saleem told Kashmir Reader that the traffic police do take action. He said several drivers have been penalised for carrying passengers exceeding the seating capacity.
In 2017, he said, the traffic department seized 30 vehicles and fined 134 drivers.
“The total number of challans issued was 931 and Rs 54,274 was recovered from Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) for the violation of traffic rules,” Tahir said.
Chairman of the Mini Bus Federation, Sheikh Mohammad Yusuf, said the federation has been warning drivers against overloading buses. Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Kashmir, Farooq Rather said that action is frequently taken against buses violating the rules, but did not share the data. “When such complaints come to our notice we cancel the route permits of buses,” he said.