Wednesday, December 17, 2008

how the bluelines can learn from the smoking ban...

One thing that was curiously absent from all the news articles today about the killing of two kids in Delhi by one of the "killer" Blueline buses was the name of the company that owns the bus. The driver was named in some articles, but none of the papers we get (TOI, HT, Express, Hindu, Mail Today) could tell me the company's name. Perhaps we'll get that info later in the week, but I doubt it. And that's a shame.

This is the first good example of how the government could learn from the success of the smoking ban. Just as the threat of the loss of their liquor license -- the equivalent of "the death penalty" for a bar -- was enough to get the city's bars and restaurants to enforce the smoking ban, the (real and enforced) threat to take away the license to operate of THE COMPANY responsible for a Blueline bus that kills a pedestrian (or, say, 5 pedestrians in separate incidents, if you think that's too hard on these rapacious firms) would end this problem overnight. For too long, the government has been talking about "phasing out" the Blueline buses -- a process which should not be difficult at all. All they'd have to do is buy the firms and their buses and institute new policies to mirror the DTC's -- no great public transport genius, to be sure, but not a murderous one either. But that's not even what is required. What they need to do is punish the driver's through the criminal system -- with real, rapidly enforced, sentences for vehicular manslaughter when they're guilty of reckless driving (sometimes when they hit bikes or whatever, it's the biker's fault). And to punish THE COMPANIES with the civil court system -- forcing them to pay huge settlements to the families of the people they kill, at the very least, and taking away their license after a few repeat offenses.

In fact, this is even more obvious in this situation than in the case of the smoking ban. Bar owners never did anything to encourage their patrons to smoke, but now they're compelled to take the role of the police in enforcing the ban. Meanwhile, the drivers of the Blueline buses speed and drive recklessly because the companies behind the buses don't pay them enough unless they get enough passengers -- which is impossible if they drive safely. So the companies are directly responsible for the deaths that their drivers cause, and therefore should be held legally and morally responsible for making sure they drive safely.


Perakath said...

I understand the buses are owned by individuals, rather than companies. And by individuals connected to mafia types, not the mafia types themselves.

Jason Overdorf said...

Good to know. Then making the individuals who own the buses responsible should work. Thanks for the info.

Perakath said...

You're welcome. Every bus has the owner's name and address painted in small letters near the rear "door", or lack thereof.

I believe the police routinely impound 'killer' bluelines and cancel their licences. But the problem with the individual ownership system is that it's very easy for another relative to step in and take over the licence. The government's plan to introduce corporate fleet ownership and consequent accountability is an attempt to overcome this. And it's a plan that might work. If a Tata group company were running the buses, say, I'm sure they'd train their drivers well and remove incentives to speed.

You're right about how it should be easy to phase out Bluelines, though. They could do it in one swoop, if they wanted to. Further, if the DTC could sort out its issues and actually operate with a view to making a profit, it's losing crores of rupees in opportunity costs every month. Why have Bluelines at all? A monopolistic DTC would generate far more revenue for itself, if they introduced enough buses to satisfy the demand. Chennai is an example of how it can work-- there are no private stage carriage operators in Madras.