Delhi commuters turn violent over transport chaos

Delhi commuters turn violent over transport chaos

Angry commuters torched buses on Tuesday in the Indian capital to protest against a lack of public transport after a court order forced thousands of pollution-belching vehicles off the roads.

A Delhi fire official said mobs in the south of the city set six buses ablaze and two small shops after waiting for hours at bus stops. No one was injured, he said.

Elsewhere in the city, irate crowds deflated bus tyres and blocked buses from moving to protest against the lack of transport, a police spokesman said.

Thousands crowded bus stations waiting for the few buses that had obeyed the court order and converted to an environmentally friendly fuel from diesel or given a commitment to make the switch in the next six months.

Many commuters clambered on to roofs of crowded buses on Tuesday, the first working day since the deadline to convert to Compressed Natural Gas fuel went into effect on Sunday.

"Capital mess: Chaos rules the roads," ran a headline in the Times of India which said that barely a quarter of the city's fleet of state-run and private buses would be on the streets.

The Supreme Court which is leading the drive to clean up Delhi's dirty air was due to hear an appeal on Tuesday from the city administration to allow transport operators who had promised to switch to CNG to run buses for a week without the new permit.

The court which issued its orders in 1998 banning the use of diesel by commercial vehicles has dismissed similar appeals in the past saying enough time had been given to the city administration to make the switch to cleaner fuel.


"This government needs to be bashed up," said Shrestha Vohra, a ticket clerk at the New Delhi railway station who had been waiting for two hours at a bus station to get to work.

Media reports said many of the city's schools had been ordered to close while others left it to parents to arrange for transportation.

"In the capital it's a bunch of politicians who uncaringly allowed deadline after court deadline to pass. They did so obviously presuming politicians are unaccountable to no one, said the Times of India in an editorial entitled "Missed the Bus."

Police said they were issuing a warning to commuters not to cling to the railings outside buses or ride on the roofs and not to share taxis or three-wheelers with strangers.

Several bus and taxi operators said they were prepared to switch to the environmentally friendly fuel but had been forced to go from one government department to another to get documents for compliance.

One newspaper in a report entitled "Strangled by Red Tape" said Delhi's transport authority was unable to handle tens of thousands of affadavits filed by operators promising to switch to CNG in the next six months.

Delhi's Transport Minister Pervez Hashmi said Delhi was the first city in the country which had been ordered to convert its entire public transport system to CNG and the infrastructure was not fully in place.

"A public transport system operating on the CNG mode in addition to buses needs an assured supply of CNG which remains characterised by uncertainties," he said. Besides, there were not enough workshops equipped to maintain CNG vehicles.

New Delhi with a population of over 10 million people is rated as one of the world's most polluted cities.

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