news Monday, January 05, 2015 - 05:30
Siddharth Mohan Nair | The News Minute | September 24, 2014 | 1.05 pm IST A bus ride in Kerala is truly an experience. With the over-crowded buses zooming through the small and pot-holed roads, the ride will surely create a little fear in everyone’s hearts.  Over-crowding has been a major issue in cities like Ernakulam. The sight of people travelling by hanging on to the door and window bars is not uncommon. People do lose balance and fall off from the moving buses because they don't have doors. There have been number of such accidents and some deaths, too. The Ernakulam Regional Transport Authority (RTA) headed by the District Collector issued an order that all Ernakulam city buses should mandatorily have doors at the front and rear sides by September 1. The bus owners association moved the State Transport Appellate Tribunal (STAT). They contended that the Motor Vehicle Act had exempted city buses from having doors and that thus the order was ultra vires. On this point of legality the STAT cancelled the order of the Ernakulam RTA.    K.B. Suneer, the general secretary of the Private Bus Owners’ Association said to The News Minute that the RTA order had asked them to install pneumatic doors. “The installation of pneumatic doors in buses is a very costly affair. With increasing prices of fuel, it is impossible for us to bear such costs,” he said. “Moreover, two metres of additional length will be required to install pneumatic doors. This will decrease the number of seats by two or three,” reducing the revenue, he said. Manual doors can also be installed but then the rules stipulate that there should be a door keeper. “Employing two door keepers at the cost of Rs. 1,200 per day is unaffordable for the bus owners,” Suneer said.  Advocate P. Deepak who argued in the STAT for the bus owners told The News Minute that the tribunal has passed only an interim order asking the state government to implement the rule all across the state and not just one city.  “Why is Ernakulam so special? Commuters here are not less mortals than commuters of Kozhikode or Thrissur, or any other city. Life of every commuter irrespective of the city he/she belongs is of the same value,” Deepak said.    “The state government already has a draft proposal ready which mandates that all carriages need to install pneumatic doors. They are not implementing that because of some unknown reason. Now the government is indulging in shadow boxing by keeping the RTA in front,” he alleged. Ernakulam Regional Transport Officer (RTO) K.M. Shaji told The News Minute that the RTA being a quasi judicial body had directed the bus owners to install doors because there were a lot of accidents that was taking place in the city.  “The STAT had gone into the technicality of the issue that the MV Act exempts city buses from having doors. But, if seen from a humanitarian angle many lives are being lost. That is the reason why the government has decided to move the Kerala High Court challenging the STAT’s order,” RTO Shaji said.  He also added that the RTA order only tried to put to practice the draft report that is lying with the government. “There is a government draft that is lying without any action being taken since 2012 which makes pneumatic doors mandatory for buses. In the backdrop of this controversy, I hope that this draft sees the light of the day,” he added.  “We have nothing against the bus owners but, they should act responsibly and help the government in its efforts to decrease accidents,” he said. The state government has, however, decided to approach the High Court. 
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