The Killer buses of India – MADE IN INDIA
- On 24th Sept 2011, the headlines screamed of Gourav Surekha and Ashwin Raghuram, 2 young commerce students, losing their lives to a BMTC bus.
- On 1 Oct 2011, Pooja Salgaonkar, a 24 year student from MCC was run over by a lorry.
- On 2 Oct a young boy was run over by a private bus in Bangalore.
4 more victims added to a loooong list, a never ending list that we care about no more.
Going by reports, it may be safe to assume that the youngsters were negligent. But negligence need not necessarily mean a death penalty. A mature and responsible society analyses the cause and plugs the holes. Something we Indians never do. A. Because we can’t understand the problem, B. We have no solutions.
To begin understanding the problem, lets start with a key indicator in all such reports.
“Crushed”, “Run over”,” Mowed down” – three words essentially used when it is any accident involving a bus or lorry.
This is the problem and therein lies the solution.
When you read these three words, the questions that should be asked are:
- “Why only a bus/lorry?”.
- “Is it that a car is not heavy enough to crush a person?”.
- “Are all buses killers?”
Now delve a little more on the words “run over” & “crushed” and the answer is obvious.
THIS IS A VOLVO / MERCEDES BUS COMPARED TO A 2 WHEELER AND A RIDER
THIS IS AN INDIAN MADE BUS / LORRY COMPARED TO A 2 WHEELER AND A RIDER
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN AN ACCIDENT WITH A VOLVO / MERCEDES BUS
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IN AN ACCIDENT WITH AN INDIAN BUS / LORRY
It is not the Indian driver or citizen who is always at fault or solely responsible.
Nor is it the weight of these vehicles which cause death.
The answer is that even though a car is heavy enough, it cannot run over a person. The real culprit is the high ground clearance owing to a faulty design.
Indian buses are essentially bodies and seats strapped onto a lorry chassis. But why do large Indian flagship companies like Tata and Ashok Leyland not build bodies with low ground clearance? Forget ‘low ground clearance bodies’, why do they not build any type of body at all and instead choose to sell just the chassis?
Herein lies a sordid tale of money, callous companies, brain-dead regulatory bodies and a mute citizenry.
It may surprise you to learn that the chassis manufacturers like Tata and Ashok Leyland are not directly responsible for this negligence. Don’t assume I have been paid off to take their side. But the truth is that they are absolved just because they do not build these bodies. But they are a still a part of the killer nexus since they do manufacture the chassis and shirk from building bus bodies. And the bodies are built by external agencies as per the specs of the end user. A lorry chassis can take the avatar of a water tanker, bus, A/C bus, sleeper coach, garbage truck, drilling rig etc. Multi purpose indeed.
But why is this system followed?
It is because of a small, hidden, archaic rule. This cartel of chassis manufacturers, body builders and transport operators have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives for money.
Lets assume I am a transport operator, private or government. I buy a chassis from Tata or Ashok Leyland for, say, 10 lakhs.
This attracts an excise duty of 16%. So the chassis now costs 11.60 lakhs
I get a body built by any non-regulated, glorified fabricator posing as a ‘bus body builder’ for, say, 5 lakhs. This does not attract any excise duty.
So the total cost of the bus is 16.60 lakhs.
If the chassis manufacturers themselves built a body for 5 lakhs then the transporter has to pay 16% excise duty on 15 lakhs. The bus would now cost 17.40 lakhs.
A saving of Rs.80,000.
Note: all figures are approximate.
It is not that the powers that be are not aware of this problem. Here is an excerpt from The department of Heavy Industry’s site.
9.3 Commercial Vehicles
9.3.1 Presently excise duty on commercial vehicles sold by a manufacturer whether as a chassis or with a complete body is 16%. However, no duty is levied on the body that is built by an independent body builder on chassis bought from a manufacturer. This dispensation inveigles production of the complete trucks and buses by the chassis manufacturer and is detrimental to safety standards. The duty imposed on the construction of bodies by an independent body builder, small or organised sector, shall be equal to that of bodies built by a chassis manufacturer.
9.3.2 The Government will encourage fabrication of bus body on bus chassis designed for better passenger comfort instead of truck chassis as is the current practice.
9.3.3 The Government will promote the use of multi-axle vehicles for carriage of goods as they cause reduced environmental pollution and lesser wear and tear on road surface in comparison to the existing 2-axle trucks.
I do agree that this is not the only reason for the deaths on our streets. But we need to keep it simple and not bite more than we can chew. Let us tackle one issue at a time. This seems to be the simplest. Inspite of our buses being built on a lorry chassis, bodies are being built nonetheless. Why not build it a lot lower to reduce ground clearance? This is independent of policies and government regulations. Totally upto the transport operators and the body builders and hence totally possible.
I had filed a PIL in the high court of Karnataka which was dismissed. I will add those details on another post.
MERA BHARAT MAHAAN !!!!
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