|Passers-by rush to the rescue of schoolchildren after the bus rammed into a house in Darbhanga on Thursday and (below) Bhaskar Jha (wearing blue shirt) tries to get away from the mob. Pictures by Sanjay Kumar Mishra|
Sanjay K Mishra & Ramashankar, TT, Darbhanga/Patna, July 21: A man forcefully took over a school bus filled with 49 students and rammed it into a house in downtown Darbhanga this morning as the terrified children screamed for help.
The incident occurred at Bela locality of the town, about 125km northeast of Patna, around 7.30am when the bus was on its way to Darbhanga Public School after collecting the children from their homes.
The bus, while overtaking a motorbike on a muddy stretch of the road, splashed some slush on the biker. The enraged biker, Bhaskar Jha (54), followed the bus, overtook it and forced the driver to stop in the middle of the road. Jha, who teaches in a private school, dragged out the driver, Raju Paswan (40), and thrashed him. After that, Jha took over the steering wheel and started driving the bus. The driver’s assistant didn’t try to stop Jha; it was not immediately clear why.
After driving the bus for about five minutes, Jha lost control and ended up ramming it into a house. The front portion of the bus was damaged, and there was minor damage to the house too. Luckily, no child was injured but they were scared and shouting for help.
Sensing foul play, some local people had started following the bus by then. After the bus came to an abrupt halt, they dragged Jha out, thrashed him and handed him over to police. They also evacuated the children.
“As soon as the local residents informed us about the incident we rushed to the spot and arrested Jha after which an FIR was lodged against him,” said Amrendra Thakur, station house officer at University police station in whose jurisdi-ction the incident happen-ed said.
Darbhanga senior superintendent of police Satyaveer Singh said: “We have booked Jha for reckless driving and not hijacking the bus because this didn’t appear to be his motive. His act was guided by his anger and not to kidnap the children as being claimed by some locals.”
Singh, however, admitted that children were at grave risk with Jha behind the wheel.
Police sources said Jha does not have a criminal record. Local residents said he was short-tempered and had a habit of picking up quarrels over minor issues.
“I was really afraid as the man was driving the vehicle recklessly,” said Ankit, a Class VIII student who was in the bus. “All of us were at the mercy of God.”
Rajesh Shrivastava, another Class VIII student said: “This bus ride will haunt me for the rest of the life. The man was really angry and we didn’t know what to do.”
Bus driver Paswan said Jha didn’t give him time to react: “He thrashed me mercilessly and while I was trying to recoup he entered the vehicle and started driving it.”
School principal Lal Mohan Jha thanked the local residents for rescuing the children and also handing over Jha to the police.
Asked about the lack of security in the bus and driver’s assistant’s failure to come to the help of the driver or the children, the principal said it was the first such incident and steps would be taken to ensure the safety of the children who take the school bus.
The parents were, naturally, perturbed.
“I hope that the school administration will honour its promise on the children’s safety front,” said Satyendra Singh, whose son is a Class VI student of the school that has over 500 students.
“The incident has come as a shock for parents like me; such things are unheard of in the town.”