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Pune-Mumbai Expressway police not geared up to tackle bus disasters

In wake of the calamitous bus blaze in Andhra Pradesh’s Mehboobnagar district, in which 45 passengers were charred to death and five others were injured, MiD DAY gives you a perspective on the safety norms that comfortable public transport vehicles on the Pune-Mumbai Highway are supposed to follow, and where the highway police’s preparedness stands.

The picture isn’t all hunky-dory. It seems the authorities are yet to wake up fully to the risk of a likely mishap, as steps are yet to be taken to issue safety directives to drivers and travel agencies, and routine checks yet to be made tight. Dilip Bhujbal, superintendent of police, highways, said, “We are planning to instruct bus travel agencies to take precautions so that such accidents can be avoided. We will soon suggest to the regional traffic office (RTO) to check buses thoroughly before they are cleared for road.”¬†

Bhujbal added, “We have 10-odd people to check vehicles on the Mumbai-Pune Highway. As of now, we carry out checks to deter drunk drivers. Soon, we will start checking for exit doors and other features a public transport vehicle must have. We expect the RTO to do detailed and careful checks before giving their nod to a bus.”

Safety facets
The authorities at RTO said they are mindful of the safety features in vehicles. Arun Yewla, Pune RTO, said, “We check the buses for three main things, an emergency exit, an operational fire extinguisher and, in case of air-conditioned buses, a hammer near the emergency exit to break the sealed windows. If any bus does not fulfill any of these norms, we do not give it clearance”.

D Patade, manager, Konduskar Travels Pvt Ltd, said, “We have trained our drivers to drive safely on highways and expressways. We have told them to take a quick break whenever they want to freshen up, after parking the vehicle properly, and then restart the journey.”

Highway police’s safety checklist for buses
Vehicle must have 2 doors, one of them the emergency exit
It should have a functional fire extinguisher which the driver, attendant know how to use
It should have posters with instructions for commuters in case of an emergency scenario
Disaster-response training for driver, cleaner etc
Need-based halts during journey so the driver freshens up
Driver shouldn’t be disturbed or distracted when behind the wheel
Speed control, especially in the night
Safety instructions acted out for passengers as performed in flights 

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