A day after a school bus ran over six-year-old Ashok Murugan and his brother Suresh Murugan, feeble attempts to control the traffic on the notorious Lakshmi Nagar junction have begun. While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief has promised the local corporator in writing that the work for a vehicular subway will start in three months, nothing has been said about a pedestrian underpass yet.
The Lakshmi Nagar junction on the Ghatkopar-Andheri Link road is notorious for accidents
Rakhi Jadhav, a local corporator who has been fighting for the subway since the last three years, said the issue of people dangerously crossing the road has been caused entirely due to the negligence and apathy of officials.
In the absence of a subway or a skywalk, the locals risk life and limb to get to the other side of the road. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
“BMC officials have been giving a million reasons. Since the last three years, they are saying that there is a Metro corridor and a railway bridge nearby, so we have to take NOCs from both. But files are not going ahead at all. [BMC Commissioner] Ajoy Mehta has given it in writing that the work for a vehicular subway will start in three months. We will wait and see,” said Jadhav.
Around 3 pm on Thursday afternoon, the Murugan brothers were returning from their school in Lakshmi Nagar. After leaving from school, they crossed the Ghatkopar-Andheri Link Road to catch a bus from the other side to go home.
A tea vendor, who sits right opposite the accident spot, said that the school bus didn’t stop at all, even while the children were crossing. Ashok died in the accident.
“They didn’t have any elder with them. They climbed the stairs, came to the road and started crossing. There is a speed breaker right behind the spot where the incident took place but it’s so low that a vehicle hardly slows down. The bus just rammed into them,” he said.
A day after the incident, when mid-day visited the spot, two traffic constables were standing at the spot. Speaking to mid-day, one of them said that they can barely stop people from crossing the road since no one listens.
‘Only a subway can help’
However, they were seen spending more time just watching people cross rather than intervening in the matter. When asked about it, one of them said, “What can we do? Neither the vehicles stop, nor do the people.
Everyone is in a hurry and they don’t listen to us. Only a subway can help the situation.”
Residents also said that the spot has witnessed many accidents.
Chandrakant Bhende (62) said that a large number of students residing in Lakshmi Nagar and beyond study in schools in Pant Nagar and other surrounding areas.
“We take tuitions at home and some days ago, a rickshaw ran over the foot of one of our students. Before that, our neighbour was run over by a speeding motorcycle. A subway had been proposed and people have come to survey the area but nothing has materialised as of now,” said Bhende.
Traffic cop says
Traffic ACP Babasaheb Budhwant, who visited the spot on Saturday, said while they have already started two signals on either ends of the road to control speeding vehicles, extra recommendations have also been made.
“We have suggested that a subway be made for people to cross because the illegal crossing isn’t going to stop. Secondly, a skywalk on the Pant Nagar junction can also help the cause. Currently, we have deployed constables during school hours to prevent accidents,” said Budhwant.
Policy maker speaks
Ashok Murugan’s death has put the spotlight on the school bus policy. The policy, drafted in 2011, has been worked and re-worked several times since, with some of its rules and regulations implemented, including compulsory refresher courses for drivers, and speed limits.
Indrani Malkani (in pic), member of the government-appointed committee that formulated the school bus safety policy says, “There can be no compromise on safe driving by school bus drivers and the onus of ensuring that drivers drive safe, is on the school bus owners. However, as parents, have we taught our children how to cross roads?”
Malkani added, “The present rules of the school bus policy say that every school bus operator has to ensure that drivers are trained, take refresher courses in safe driving, but unless infrastructure is made better, like subways, foot over bridges, safety of children cannot be guaranteed.”