The Telangana bus accident in which 57 passengers died is yet another gory reminder of the scant attention we pay to road safety. Carrying passengers far beyond a bus’ capacity is even more hazardous on hill roads. The condition of roads, besides placement of speedbreakers with little advance warning for drivers, are major hazards, given that very little is spent on vehicles’ maintenance. More demands are placed on drivers, who are given incentives to save diesel and take shortcuts. Rural areas are so badly served that overcrowding is inevitable. Our rural folk are really second class citizens when it comes to state bus services. With the seasonal demand for pilgrimage to popular temples likely to spiral out of control, it’s the duty of state transport corporations to provide adequate services without affecting passengers’ safety, like the model services run by Tirupati’s Tirumala temple.
The sheer inadequacy of transport services, both public and private, is mind-boggling. India may have close to two million registered buses, but most are harnessed for urban transportation needs and inter-city services, mostly in difficult conditions like mixed traffic, while suburban and now metro rail offering the only credible alternatives. An explosion of sales of vehicles for private transport is adding to unique congestion of urban areas. Given the supply and demand, the difficulty of providing rural services becomes even more difficult. The regrettable loss of lives can invariably be put down to poor roads, poorer driving and poor upkeep of infrastructure and public transport. Sadly, this only shows how cheap lives are in India as governments routinely announce cash handouts to the victims’ families.