The political class, or at least one of its esteemed representatives, paid the price for not making the maintenance of the ailing BEST bus fleet its priority. Last morning, a BEST bus rammed into the gates of Public Works Department (PWD) Minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s bungalow Ramtek, injuring two passengers.
The incident occurred around 11.40 am owing to a technical snag, while the bus was on its way towards Napean Sea Road. Eyewitnesses said that the driver was struggling to control the vehicle and it appeared there was some kind of problem with the steering wheel. The 121 bus route extends from Backbay Depot to J Mehta Marg. Sources in the BEST said that as the bus was taking a turn, the steering wheel got jammed and collided into the gates of Bhujbal’s bungalow, also damaging the bus’ windowpane.
Confirming the incident, OP Gupta, general manager for BEST, said, “The bus’ steering wheel was jammed, and so this incident occurred.” The jammed steering wheel prevented the driver from manoeuvring the bus. Sources said that there has long been a shortage of lubricants required for maintenance of steering wheels and other valuable parts of the BEST buses. “Until recently, there have been problems with application of oil and grease required for these mechanical paraphernalia. Such mechanical failures cannot be predicted,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity.
The administration claims that they would soon be purchasing various kind of oils required to prevent such mishaps from repeating themselves in the future. BEST has around 12,000 drivers, many of whom work on contract basis. These drivers have recently come under fire for rash driving and lack of proper training. The ramshackle condition of the buses, too has been criticised.
“We have begun the process of installing speed governors on a trial basis,” added Gupta. Once speed governors are installed inside the 4700-strong fleet of single decker and double decker buses, they will be unable to exceed speeds of 60 km/h and 45 km/h respectively. Meanwhile, BEST committee member Sunil Ganacharya said that they are still awaiting an explanation for accidents involving BEST buses.