Master key is still in use

Panel had recommended separate keys for each bus

Doing away with the system of an ignition master key for all its buses was one of the steps the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) decided after driver Santosh Mane left nine people dead and nearly 30 injured on the roads of Pune.

A year after the incident on January 25, 2012, the bus depots in the city and across the state continue to use the common ignition key.

It was using a master key that Mane had hijacked a bus parked by another driver at the Swargate depot and driven it recklessly for around 45 minutes, running over pedestrians and damaging 41 vehicles.

A driver with Shivajinagar depot wishing anonymity said all the buses manufactured by Tata Motors can be started using a master key and the same is the case for all the Ashok Leyland buses.

"Even an ignition key from trucks manufactured by Tata Motors can get engines of our buses going. If a truck driver wishes, he can drive away any unguarded bus," said the driver.

After Mane's killer run on the streets, the MSRTC administration had appointed a 13-member 'technical committee' to look into stress level among drivers, their working conditions, work load, the system of using master keys, and the condition of buses and depots. The committee headed by MSRTC managing director Deepak Kapoor included head of the psychiatry department of KEM hospital PA Wankhede, head of the mechanical engineering department of VJTI Dr Anil Podar, and MSRTC chief medical officer Major VB Thorat.

An important recommendation of the committee was to do away with the master key.

An official with the Pune Division of MSRTC said, "It's not an easy task to change the common ignition key system. We will have to ask the manufacturer to change the ignition boxes of all the buses and make separate keys. It would be a herculean task for all the buses statewide. Also it would be 'extremely expensive'. However, the new fleets we are buying have separate keys."

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