BENGALURU: Close on the heels of the miraculous escape of 52 school students from a BMTC bus that caught fire on December 3, the transport department on Wednesday seized 21 BMTC buses for violating Supreme Court safety norms. The seized buses were ferrying students of Vidyaniketan School on Ullal Road near Mallathahalli.
“We found that the buses were operating without first-aid box, side safety grilles and CCTV cameras. Buses were also poorly maintained,” said a senior transport department official.
BMTC operates nearly 300 buses to ferry school children. On Saturday, a BMTC bus ferrying 52 students to Srirangapatna for an excursion caught fire on the busy Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. An electrical short circuit was stated to be the reason.
Sources say most BMTC buses don’t follow the Supreme Court guidelines while transporting school children.
They also lack other basic facilities like fire extinguisher, first-aid-box and speed governor.
Transport department officials told Express there is a mounting pressure on them from the ministry not to take any action against the BMTC buses.
“We have been told not to take action against state-run buses since it will defame the government. But we cannot turn a blind eye to these violations for a long time. Saturday’s incident was a classic example of how BMTC buses are unsafe for school children,” said a senior transport department official.
“BMTC should provide special buses for school children with improved safety mechanism,” the official added.
The transport department on Wednesday seized 21 BMTC buses for violating Supreme Court safety norms. However, Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy was unavailable for comment.
A senior BMTC official said Supreme Court guidelines were being followed.
“We don’t have dedicated buses for schools. These buses ply normally after the school hours. Hence, we are not able to install special features and get it painted. We have also taken permission from the transport department to run these buses. Our vehicles are better than the private ones,” the official added.
Responding to Saturday’s fire accident, another BMTC official said that a team from Ashok Leyland is expected to come from Chennai in two days to ascertain the real cause of the accident.
“Their visit was delayed because of J Jayalalithaa’s death,” the official added.
Vijay Krishna Rajagopalan, principal, Vidyaniketan Public School, said school had tied up with BMTC 20 years ago. “Nearly 900 students and few teachers are being ferried in 23 buses”. He said they are awaiting the report from the RTO for missing safety compliance.