Music in buses | Daily News

Music in buses

The National Transport Commission, it is reported, have decided to clamp down on high decibel music played on private buses during their journeys transporting passengers. Haven't we heard that number before? We say this because earlier too there were similar gung ho declarations made by the transport authorities, and, if our memory serves us right, even the minster himself. But it turned out that this matter too went the same way with regard to solutions to the other maladies besetting the public transport sector. Overcrowding that was banned on pain of heavy penalties and cancellation of the licenses, still continue in brazen fashion. So too is the staccato journeys of private buses stopping at random to pick up passengers.

It is hoped at least this time around the yakko music played in private buses will be banned for certain or at least permitted with restraints. The blaring music played in private buses has become a nuisance to the passengers, to make an understatement, who are forced to grin and bear the ordeal. The shrill sounds that passes for songs, magnified through amplifiers set into the interior bodywork of private buses, needless to say, sets one's nerves on edge, as any passer who has had to endure the ordeal would vouch for. Hence, drastic action to ban the practice, or at least place restraints in this regard would be most welcome to the much harried travelling public.

According to a news item we carried in the inside pages of our Tuesday's edition, the National Transport Commission is to soon regulate the songs played on buses and the maximum volume they can be played. According to NTC Chairman Janaka Mallimarachchi, they would set decibel levels for music played on public transport buses, adding that the law would be strictly implemented against the drivers and conductors who do not comply with the new standards. He said the songs which can be played on buses would be selected based on the recommendation of a Committee of artistes. He said similar regulations would be introduced to songs played on school vans. Speaking to the media after calling on the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, the NTC Chairman observed that doctors have warned that passengers become mentally disturbed by listening to certain songs played on buses and also because of their loud noise.

There is a school of thought that drivers of private buses need to keep themselves ‘going’ through the medium of music, the louder the merrier, for better concentration and to keep them from falling asleep. Given that the major contributory factor for the current spate of road accidents being attributed to drivers of vehicles falling asleep, it is doubtful if the NTC decision will find favour with the private bus owners. It will be interesting to observe the response of Private Bus Owners’ Association Chairman Gemunu Wijeratne who once claimed that over one third of the drivers of private buses in the Western Province were druggies. Perhaps, loud music goes with the state of being heavily stoned for these drivers and hence an indispensable tool to keep them doubly fortified.

Besides, getting a panel of artistes to select the type of songs that can be played in buses too is bound to be met with resistance from the private bus fraternity. It could also be construed as an infringement of their fundamental rights to equal treatment. The question also arises as to how a group of artistes can determine the type of songs to be played in buses. Most passengers are not entirely averse to being entertained with songs, particularly during grueling long bus journeys. It is the high volume that most passengers resent and object to. There is also the need to cater to a wider choice, a task the Selection Panel may not be up to.

It is also obvious that songs are played in private buses to divert the attention of passengers from the ordeals they are being subjected to as a result of overcrowding and delays in getting to their destinations due to traffic jams.

How pray, will the TRC apprehend the errant drivers who flout the restrictions played on songs in buses? Will any passenger dare stand up to ask the driver to tone down the volume? How could a passenger even dial an emergency number to alert the flying squad without raising the suspicion of the crew? What happens if the volume is down to the prescribed levels when the flying squad eventually arrives?

These questions, no doubt, will need answers before the full implementation of the restrictions contemplated. Hopefully this will not trigger another strike by the private bus operators who have already invested heavily on the paraphernalia such a ‘speakers’ amplifiers inbuilt stereo, karoke, hi-fi systems etc. Most buses now even have television to entertain the passengers which, it has to be admitted, is much less oppressive than the blaring radios and cassette music that give shrill sounds.

There is also the need to get the private buses to fall in line with regard to overcrowding and inordinate stoppages in the course of their journeys.


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