Nearly 30 passengers travelling from Pune to Ahmedabad in an AC sleeper bus had a harrowing experience on Saturday evening, after they discovered that the driver was heavily drunk.
Knocked out: The drunk driver, identified as Sunil Rana, had previously done four trips for Deep Travels.
They handed over the driver to the police at the Khalapur toll plaza on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, but then had to spend the whole night stranded on the highway, as the agency that owns the bus — Deep Travels — took nearly eight hours to arrange another driver to continue the journey.
One of the passengers, Sugesh Dube, who reached Ankaleshwar at 6 pm on Sunday, 12 hours later than the bus’ scheduled arrival at 6 am, shared his experience with mid-day. “I boarded the Deep Travels bus in Nigdi. I got suspicious right away after seeing the driver driving rashly. When some passengers asked him to go slow, he started arguing and even abused some of us. When I warned him, he said ‘jo karna hai kar lo’ (do what you want),” said Dube.
“Fearing for our lives, we called the highway police at Khalapur toll plaza and handed over the driver to them. In the meantime, we tried contacting Deep Travels for help, but didn’t get a good response. We spent almost the entire night on the highway before the agency sent a replacement driver. There were women and children on the bus as well. I wanted to attend a function at my sister’s home in Ankaleshwar on Sunday morning, but this never-ending journey ruined all my plans,” Dube, who looks after his brother’s business in Pune, added.
When contacted, Karan Deep of Deep Travels in Ahmedabad initially admitted to the lapses on the company’s end. “What happened yesterday was very unfortunate. How can we keep a tab on every driver? They behave decently in front of us. The driver’s name is Sunil Rana and he has done hardly four trips for us earlier,” said Deep. He started arguing later, however, and refused to give details like how many passengers were on the bus and why an alternate driver was not arranged immediately.
“You only target us (travel company buses). The police also always harass us. In this case also, the police asked us for a bribe to not lodge a case against the driver and let him go. I refused and asked them to lock him up. I agree passengers suffered a lot, but we arranged an alternate driver,” Deep said.
The Khalapur police had not lodged a complaint against the driver till Sunday evening. “In drink driving cases, the police at the toll plaza often collect a fine of R2,000 and let the driver go. Maybe the same thing happened here as well. No complaint has been registered with us,” said a Khalapur police official.