Yamuna Expressway Bus Accident: 29 dead, 20 injured.
An investigation is underway, the driver involved has no previous accident record, but the UPSRTC is under strict scrutiny amidst rising tolls.
On July 8, around 5 AM, an Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation bus fell through a gap between two flyovers on the Yamuna Expressway. The bus was holding over 50 passengers at the time when it hit the divider and flew off the road, plunging through a 40 feet drop. Of these passengers, 29 have been declared dead on the scene.
The UPSRTC Janrath bus was travelling to Delhi from Lucknow, and the accident occurred around 5 AM. A prima facie enquiry found that the cause of the accident was the driver falling asleep at the wheel, and losing control of the bus. Further investigations are still under way.
The investigation will be taken up by a committee set up by the Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. The committee, comprising of the Transport Commissioner, Divisional Commissioner and IG of Agra, are under a mandate to come to a conclusion about the cause of the accident and submit a report within 24 hours. Additionally, Jaypee Infratech, the private sector company that undertook the building of the Yamuna Expressway, will also furnish a detailed report.
PM Modi issued a statement on Twitter, saying he was “Pained by the bus accident in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.” He also said, “Condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones. I pray that those injured recover fast. The State Government and local administration are providing all possible assistance to the affected.”
The Uttar Pradesh Roadways has announced a compensatory ex-gratis payment of Rs 5 lakhs to each family of the deceased. However, this figure seems like a token amount amidst increasing accidents taking place due to overworked and unsafe drivers.
The most recent national data, offered by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways mapped the increase in road deaths by state, in the year 2016 - 17.
A pictorial representation is given below:
Uttar Pradesh stands in good stead, particularly compared with Tamil Nadu, which has the highest road deaths per lakh population.
Last August, an accident similar to the one today took place in Greater Noida, causing the death of one person, where the driver fell asleep at the wheel. In that instance, a negligent driving case was filed against the driver and conductor, both of whom were on the run.
In Mid-2017, a spate of accidents involving UPSRTC buses caught media attention. In April 2017, two separate bus accidents caused more than 10 deaths and several injuries. In all of these cases, the issue at hand was over-speeding.
In June 2017, a bus fell into a river, killing eight and injuring 33. In the same month, another major accident occurred involving a UPSRTC bus in which 24 persons were killed. The bus was travelling from New Delhi to Gonda, in UP, when the driver jumped a signal, and collided with a truck on NH 24. The collision started a fire, in which the passengers were either killed or severely injured. In the wake of this accident, UP Roadways announced a reward of Rs 1000 to passengers who take photos of UPSRTC drivers acting negligently or using their phones while on the road.
Following this announcement, the policy was discussed by UP Roadways as a measure to ensure that drivers are always on high alert. “The driver will be fined Rs5,000. After rewarding the passenger, the remaining amount of Rs4,000 will be deposited in the corporation’s account. The idea behind the instructions is to reduce accidents. For that, we will also hold group sessions with drivers and conductors and educate them about safety measures that they need to take,” said PK Bose, regional manager, UP roadways, Ghaziabad region. According to the assistant regional manager of the Lucknow UPSRTC, Ambrin Akhtar, the bus was being driven by a driver who has a zero record of accidents.
In 2018, the UPSRTC won two statuettes in the Ashok Leyland India Bus Awards - One for Excellence in Bus Transport, and one for Excellence in the Use of Technology. Similarly, in 2017, the UPSRTC bagged the Ashok Leyland award for Excellence in Passenger Safety. The logic behind this last award was the fact that the UPSRTC was found to have had the least number of bus accidents in 2016 - 17, among all the state transport undertakings considered.
The strange part about the awards, however, is that UPSRTC is in the top 5 “Public Undertaking supporters” of the Ashok Leyland India Bus Awards, out of 24 public undertakings that are supporters.