Fifty-two people, including 10 children, were killed in a horrific accident in Telangana on Tuesday. Outrage grew across the state as angry citizens hit out at the government, asking it to take responsibility for the tragic incident.
Citizens across the country were subjected to shocking visuals from the road accident -- videos showed people screaming in pain after an overcrowded state-run road transport corporation bus overturned and fell into a valley in the state's Jagtial district.
The bus fell off Kondagattu Ghat Road while returning from Anjaneya Swamy temple atop Kondagattu Hills, about 190 km from Hyderabad.
Even as the Telangana government announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased, many have questioned if the state's responsibility ends there. Several people on social media called it a 'black day' in the state's history.
The bus was overcrowded as several people had undertaken a pilgrimage to the temple on Tuesday, a day that is considered auspicious by locals. Despite this, RTC officials reportedly did not make any extra arrangements.
â€śIt is a matter of judgement whether Mr Reddy, minister for transport, Telangana, India should resign over death of 52 passengers in overturn of state government-owned bus at Jagtial today,â€ť a Twitter user wrote.
Why shouldn't heads roll for this accident that has claimed 43 lives. Think of 43 families in grief, their lives turned upside down. Why shouldn't the transport minister, the TSRTC chairman and MD be sacked? Govt's responsibility does not end with giving ex-gratia.â€” T S Sudhir (@Iamtssudhir) September 11, 2018
Transport Minister #MahenderReddy should be sacked and arrested. Last 4 years saw maximum deaths, bus accidents in #Telangana. @umasudhir @sushilrTOI @Iamtssudhir @TheSiasatDaily @TJSPartyOnline @UttamTPCC https://t.co/vMKmRviQpXâ€” Adithya M Reddy (@AdithyaMarri) September 11, 2018
Spending so much of money for the development of temples and others in #Telangana isnâ€™t taking care of people. transportation and roads must be revamped to save many lives and Transport minister and MD shoud be sacked to teach lessons to others but Do They ??@KTRTRS @TelanganaCMOâ€” Mani (@manimadishetty) September 11, 2018
What action will ruling gvt take against so called transport minister Mahinder reddy who did nothing during his tenure, who is indirectly responsible for todayâ€™s huge tragedy @KTRTRS @RaoKavitha #telanganabustragedy #telanganaâ€” sathish (@sthish) September 11, 2018
Never been worse accident involving #Telangana #RTC; death toll 53; transport minister Mahender Reddy talks abt generous compensation & action on officials if there is negligence but what about his responsibility? locals say gross negligence as ghat road shld hv been closed @ndtv pic.twitter.com/bV16K1nPdsâ€” Uma Sudhir (@umasudhir) September 11, 2018
It is a matter of judgement whether Mr Reddy, minister for transport, Telangana, India should resign over death of 52 passengers in overturn of state government-owned bus at Jagtial today.#management#accountabilityâ€” S. Vasudeva Rao (@vasudeva57) September 11, 2018
â€śWhat action will ruling gvt take against so called transport minister Mahender Reddy who did nothing during his tenure, who is indirectly responsible for todayâ€™s huge tragedy,â€ť another user wrote.
Road safety activists in the know said that a large portion of RTC buses in the state are outdated and are overrun with technical issues. Several of them are considered unsafe to travel on the road.
While there are fitness checks from time to time, officials allegedly exploit loopholes and ensure the buses are on the roads.
Vinod Kumar Kanumala, founder of the Indian Federation of Road Safety says, â€śThere are state-run government buses, and there are private buses and drivers that are being hired by the Telangana government. Often, the latter are known to drive quite rashly.â€ť
â€śThe RTC drivers get training for the first six months when they join the organisation, but it ends there. It is a stressful job and drivers are under immense pressure to perform better. Yet, they receive no psychological help either. This is insufficient,â€ť he adds.
Speaking to TNM, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) Chief Spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju said that Transport Minister Mahender Reddy should be sacked and the state government should take responsibility for the incident.
Besides ex-gratia, educational and employment support to the families of the deceased and the injured, Sravan said that systematic issues should also be addressed.
"RTC employees are going through some mental unrest. It is one of the most important services and employees need to be physically and mentally fit. Many promises made to the employees have been unresolved and the drivers especially, need to be given special support," he says.
"Typically, an IPS-level officer is the Managing Director of the TSRTC, but the Telangana government has brought in people favourable to the TRS and even given them an extension," he adds.
In June this year, employees of the RTC went on strike alleging a severe financial crunch in the department, which was causing immense problems to retired employees who are yet to receive their dues and pension payments.
The employees also protested against the governmentâ€™s failure to announce new recruitments, and demanded a pay hike.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Finance Minister Etela Rajender told reporters at Jagtial that 52 people were killed in the disaster. He said 47 bodies were brought to Jagtial Hospital while five people succumbed at a hospital in Karimnagar.
The dead include the driver B. Srinivas. Officials said the victims include 26 women and 10 children. The toll could go up as the condition of some of the injured was stated to be critical. A few critically injured were taken to hospitals in Karimnagar and Hyderabad.