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Time to Put Public Transport In Order

The flash blockade of the KTC (Kadamba Transport Corporation) Margao bus stand by private bus operators disrupted public transport in the state’s commercial capital, putting common people to much inconvenience on September 13. As a result of the blockade KTC buses could neither enter the bus stand nor move out of it. Hundreds of passengers were stranded, with many of them failing to reach their destinations at appointed time. Private bus owners and their crew were protesting the action of motor vehicle inspectors for issuing 43 challans to the crew of buses for various violations during their operations in and out of the South Goa district. Instead of appealing to the government, the private bus operators chose to hold every travelling person a hostage to stave off action against them. Chaos reigned at the bus stand for two hours and it was only after police intervention that bus services resumed. Every time action is taken against the powerful private bus operators they come out on the street and force the authorities to condone their ‘misdeeds’ in lieu of resumption of public transport.

The action by the transport department against errant bus crew came in the wake of a teenaged girl falling off a bus in Navelim and receiving injuries. Action against private bus crew should not be a reaction to an incident or mishap but taken in a regular course. Private bus crew members regularly fail to adhere to the rules, particularly those relating to safety and overcrowding. Private bus operators do not issue tickets to passengers and pack the buses beyond their permitted capacity. They get away with the violations as the transport department authorities, despite knowledge of the violations, prefer to look the other way. The private bus operators charge discounted fares in lieu of not issuing the tickets and manage to lure customers on regular basis, thereby cutting into the business of the loss-making KTC. The Margao incident should be taken seriously by the government and the private bus operators should be taken to task for their bullying tactics. It will be a test of good governance as citizens would watch what action the government takes against them for breaking the law and inconveniencing general public.

Frequent strikes by private transport owners have earned a bad name for the state. Goa’s image as a hospitable tourist destination gets dented owing to flouting of all rules by private bus operators, not to speak of taxi operators. Rather than accusing the government officials of resorting to harassment against them, the private bus lobby should prove their credentials by abiding by the rule book. It is surprising that the operators have accused the transport department officials of demanding bribes for issuing of fitness and other certificates. If that is true, why has the private bus lobby not taken up the issue with either the Lokayukta or the vigilance department or the minister concerned? Why should anyone pay bribe when everything is in order? Accusations of bribes being demanded by transport department officials cannot be swept under the carpet. In the past transport officials have been caught red-handed for demanding and accepting bribe. They might be seeking gratification in lieu of condoning the shortcomings found during inspection of vehicles. The private bus lobby appears to have opened a Pandora’s Box and the government should seize the opportunity to go to the depth of the allegations and take action against both – the bribe givers and bribe recipients.

As the powerful private bus lobby has on many occasions held the government and passengers to ransom, it is time that the government puts an end to their violations and streamlines the functioning of the private buses. While many avenues for corruption in the transport department have been blocked, it is time that the systems are put in place to make sure inspections of vehicles are carried out without any scope for gratification and without condoning the defects. Any shortcuts and condoning of defects could lead to compromising safety of the passengers travelling by the vehicle or other users of the road and should be avoided at all costs. Besides, there is need to carry out audit of the vehicles certified by the inspectors so as to find out whether any compromise was done or not. The government should make concerted efforts to put public transport in order. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had assured the members of the Assembly that the issues relating to taxi operators would be resolved by September 30. He should also firmly deal with the issues relating to private buses.

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