E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Recently I read something regarding the Karnataka state road transport corporation (KSRTC) which caught my attention.
It highlighted the efforts of its Tumkur division to reduce accidents in its jurisdiction.
Since there are deaths by the dozen these days, I was keen to learn how Tumkur’s KSRTC tackled the problem. I decided to meet the PRO of KSRTC at their double-road office in Shanthinagar in Bangalore.
The PRO welcomed me with akshathe and thambittu prasada.
“I understand your Tumkur division made an initiative to bring down accidents in Tumkur. Could you please elaborate?”
“Sure. There were 198 deaths due to accidents from January to July in 2008-09 in Karnataka involving KSRTC buses out of which 46 deaths were in Tumkur alone, which was rather alarming. Tumkur decided to do something about it. In a proactive step, they organized homas to reduce accidents. The homas were conducted non-stop from six in the monring till nine in the night at various localities.”
“Homas? Did they budget it in their annual plan?” I asked.
“No. It was drawn from the non-plan expenditure. When they explained their mission to the headquarters, we readily sanctioned Rs 5 lakh for the specific purpose of homas. They also raised money among drivers and conductors for prasadas.”
“I see. What is the next plan?”
“Since the pilot project is a success, we are going to replicate this in the entire State.”
“I wonder how you will go about organizing in such a large scale. Surely audit will not allow such huge amounts to be debited to ‘non-plan expenditure? CAG will raise a big stink.”
“I know. The homa kundas and ghee alone will cost us a fortune. We have approached JNNURM for funds. Such projects are always approved by JNNURM. We are ready with a draft plan.”
“JNNURM is named after Jawaharlal Nehru. Our first Prime Minister always insisted on scientific temperament. Could you share some salient features of your plan?”
“Sure. Here are the details.”
1) Permanent homa kundas are needed in each City. Because of its size Bangalore may need four or five. The municipal corporation in each City will be our co-partners, stakeholders if you will. BBMP will be our partners in Bangalore. MCC in Mysore and so on.
2) KSRTC will have its own staff purohitharu on their roster who will do homas before each trip. Khaki panche and shalya will be their uniform. Traffic police in consultation with some mutts have suggested yellow and black thilakas for men and bindis of similar colours for women.
3) The driver and conductor will make sure the passengers do a pradakshine of the homa kunda and the bus before they get in. Prasadas like rasayana or kobbarisakkare will be distributed before the bus leaves the stand.
4) After the conductor blows the conch, the driver will start the bus.
5) The tickets will have permanent red and yellow colours in the corners. It will also match with the Karnataka flag colour which we use during Rajyothsava.
6) Only appata Nandini fhee will be used throughout for the homas.
“These are some of the features. Initially we are restricting these only to outstation buses. Later we will take a call on bus travel within city limits. But we could make changes as we go along,” said the PRO.
“Very well thought-out plan, I must say. But there could be accidents along the way. How will you prevent them?”
“Good question. Our ‘Circle Inspectors’ enroute will do a ‘dhrishti nivarane’ as the bus enters their area. The circle inspector will break a coconut in front of the bus as his assistant will light an incense stick. A small aarti will be performed by female members of the circle inspector’s office. It is the responsibility of circle inspectors that aartis are done as soon as the bus enters their jurisdiction.”
“Fine. There is often complaint that stray cattle come in the way of speeding vehicles and busy intersections and are sometimes responsible for accidents? How will you tackle these?”
“This remains a serious problem. Neither the cattle nor their owners have done anything regarding this so far. By our experience we have found, most of the cattle are harmless and just stand in the middle of the road if they are left alone. The traffic police have advised us to get the cattle painted with alternate yellow and black stripes like zebra stripes. They will help as ‘road dividers’ on single lane roads.”
“That is good. It will also give some traffic sense and pride to the cattle too.”
“These are only some aspects of our draft plan. We have to refine it further before we finally launch.”
“I understand. By the way, are you giving your drivers some hands-on training on things like driving, traffic rules etc?”
“We have to. We cannot sit back and feel everything will be hunky-dory just from homas.”
“That’s true,” I agreed and left after one more helping of thambittu.
Postscript: Today’s Deccan Herald (Mysore edition) carries a cartoon and a story on page 3 titled ‘Clueless, cops turn towards’ divine intervention’.
Apparently, the Krishnarajendra police station on M.G. Road, located near the famous Ganapathi temple, are doing homas as they are unable to catch chain snatching and two-wheeler theft of more than 70 cases. A priest cum insurance agent conducted a homa at 4.30 am on Tuesday next to Lord Krishna deity with full attendance from inspector to constables.