KSRTC takes passengers on a bumpy
When one boards a regular blue and white, half wrecked Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus its easy to forget that you are in the IT capital of India. When you encounters their unkempt cheating conductors, some of whom even smell of alcohol, it is easy to forget that this is Bangalore and mistake these conductors for some rowdies that so litter the city.
I have been using the KSRTC buses for all of the two and a half years I have been in Bangalore, and have even traveled on them to rural districts, and they infuriate me to no end for the gross insensitivity and blatant cheating.
A while back I was heading to work, as usual in a packed bus, overflowing with people heading to work and to schools. On the way an on coming bus signaled that there were inspectors ahead checking for tickets. The conductor quickly screamed out and told everybody that they must have tickets, he even stopped the bus so he was heard. Later when the ticket inspector came checking a poor old lady, probably working as a maid was fined as she didn’t have a ticket. The poor lady of course insisted she had paid the fare, and I am sure she had, but she didn’t have a ticket, because she hadn’t paid the full fare. This is a common practice, where the conductor charges lesser than the required and the passenger is not given a ticket. The conductor then pockets the money. This episode however ended with the ticket inspector asking the lady to pay a fine. For a lady who probably earn somewhere from Rs 75 to Rs 100 a day, the fine of Rs 60 was a large amount, I guess she lost the better part of her wages that day.
Now even though more and more people have their own private transport, there is still a sizable percentage of us who still depend on the good old buses and the conductors I’m sure make more than a few hundreds each day just cheating the KSRTC and passengers, and to think that there are thousands of these buses cheating the KSRTC, per day, one could safely guess the figures run into lakhs. But the people are poor, they struggle to earn and for the desire of saving a few rupees end up fueling the corrupt system. In all of two and a half years, I have encountered ticket inspectors just twice, which means that there is a largely unmonitored system. If one goes into who gains from all this cheating, the spread of the corruption would be far and high reaching.
As if the morning experience was not bad enough, when I was returning home that very day, an elderly man gave the conductor a smaller sum than was due, as the fare. With checking stringent, the conductor yelled at the man, asking him if this was the amount that was to be expected. He asked the passenger if he did not hear about the checking by the flying squad, and grumbled that passengers like him get KSRTC bus conductors into trouble. But who has habituated these passengers to paying lesser than the required fare. I myself have had numerous experiences of being changed less, even though I have handed over the correct fare. On other occasions I have paid the fare but not been given a ticket.
A recent experience which simply got my goat was when I got into this bus KA-01-F-3487, it was a short trip and I was required to pay the conductor Rs 5. I didn’t have change so I gave him 3 coins of Rs 2 each. He gave me the ticket but didn’t give me the change, I asked him once and he ignored me, I asked him again and he ignored me. That’s when I realized he meant to keep the change and it obviously got me angry. Why did this SOB have to act like a beggar and pocket a buck, more so when I am asking for it? Finally, my stop came and he still hadn’t give me the change, I screamed and told him to hand over my change to which he said, what madam it’s only a rupee. This is how thick skinned and shameless KSRTC bus conductors are.
The sad moral of this episode is that, it reduces the dignity of not just the passenger but the conductor as well, reduces them to bickering over a rupee. Of course the rupee does not mean much to me, but the experience means thousands of rupees, it gives me an insight into the rot and helps me pull off this stupid façade of the IT capital of India, that at the end of the day it is just another corruption ridden city albeit with all its cheap makeup.
It also explains why more and more people are opting for private transport. But the more people buy private vehicles, the more will be the traffic jams, the pollution and of course more avenues for corruption. With the middle and upper middle class opting for private transport, the public transport system is loosing its vocal passengers and it is so much easier to cheat simple, uneducated, poor people.
If somebody from the KSRTC is reading this, please try to straighten out the system, putting Volvos on the road and reducing fares to Rs 1 is no answer at all, it is only a marketing gimmick.
What we need are :
- More flying squads to keep a check of errant bus conductors and passengers,
- More money, from the crores earned by the KSRTC, on educating passengers about the fare and how to insist on their ticket, besides urging them not to fuel corruption.
- Training to bus conductors and drivers; urging them to be service oriented and honest. It would do well to also pay these guys more so they don’t need to sponge off the system.
And for Gods sake, don’t give your usual set of ‘I’m-just-a-cog-in-the-wheel’ excuses, get off your butt and do something.