In the past four years, more than 60 people have died in separate instances of private and government buses catching fire -yet, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has neither installed fire safety equipment on board its buses nor trained its staff to respond to emergencies appropriately.
A recent fire, in which one woman died and another has sustained life-threatening burn injuries, is proof of the fact that the corporation has not learnt its lessons. There was no fire extinguisher on the bus, and though there was an emergency exit, it was not opened during the confusion and panic of the fire. KSRTC officials, however, said the Motor Vehicles Act did not make it mandatory for fire extinguishers to be kept on non-airconditioned buses. They added that they will soon incorporate these safety measures in non-AC buses as well.
When KSRTC Managing Director Rajendra Kumar Kataria was asked if a fire extinguisher on the bus could have helped curtail the blaze, he only said, “Probably”. He added that many non-AC buses were plying across the state and rules did not mandate an extinguisher on board.
“However, learning from this incident, we will start the process of installing these facilities in all buses,” he said.”Only the upper portion of the bus was gutted. We could see the mechanical parts at the bottom. The engine, battery pit and tyres, parts which often lead to fire, are intact. We suspect that an inflammable substance carried by a passenger caused the fire,” Kataria said. Later, Kataria was transferred from KSRTC to the mines and MSME department. The preliminary investigation indicated that there was no mechanical problem with the bus, which could have caused the fire.