The Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) organised a conference to highlight the problems faced by commuters in Bengaluru, to work out suggestions for improvement of Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC).
The problems related to public transport are always paired with other issues of building a sustainable transport and urban development, the BBPV decided to invite, besides BMTC, other agencies like Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT), Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Traffic Police (BTP) and the State Government to respond to the concerns of bus commuters in the city.
Unfortunately, the officials of BBMP, DULT, State Government and the BTP did not turn up, while BMTC was represented by a low-ranking official. A lot of commuters raised vital issues of transport and mobility. The BMTC official, Jagadish (DTO – Planning), responding to the concerns of the commuters with regard to night services, timely services, ticket fares, among other concerns said that the grievances of commuters cannot be addressed by the BMTC alone, and that the State Government too has to be held responsible.
He said that the BMTC is planning a major overhaul of its services, where Volvo buses will be phased out gradually, and old buses will be replaced by new ones. The BMTC will make provisions for 2,000 new bus shelters, he added. To the commuters’ demand to declare the schedule and frequency of night-services, the BMTC official avoided giving direct answers.
The commuters also demanded that the BMTC organise more meetings in consultation with them. To which, H S Sudhira of Gubbi Labs, who moderated the conference, suggested that the BMTC must hold ‘Bus Adalats’ frequently where bus commuters can participate and get their concerns addressed in a free and fair manner. Bhargavi S Rao of Environment Support Group (ESG) said that the 73rd and 74th amendments have asked for ward committees, which provides a forum for commuters to air their grievances in every area regarding the lack of facilities and services, among other concerns.
BMTC Staff and Workers Federation General Secretary Nagaraju S said that the drivers and conductors work under extreme conditions of stress, where they are not provided with basic facilities, and have no support from the BMTC Management. He felt that under such conditions, incidents of ill-treatment of bus commuters are natural, even though unfortunate.
Many other disparities between the theory and the realities were brought into attention by the people who attended the programme. Some of them are here:
- One of the participants said people working near Chandrika Hotel and other parts of Cunningham Road have no bus facility now because some buses that used to travel on Cunningham Road were cancelled, as the traffic was too high to manage. Footpath width being less on this TenderSURE road, BMTC simply changed the route avoiding Cunningham Road.
- People wanted to know the logic behind route deployments by BMTC. BMTC official said the routes are planned according to the profit in that particular route, and convenience of the bus drivers and conductors. Many participants including N S Mukunda of Citizen Action Forum objected to this and said BMTC must keep travellers’ interest in mind while deciding on new routes.
- Contract Pourakarmikas from Ramamurthy Nagar requested for two new buses at 5.30 am from Ramamurthy Nagar to Banaswadi, as they need to reach there by 6.30 am sharp, else their payment would be cut by the BBMP Contractor. As there were no buses at that time, they have been forced to take autos and reach Banaswadi, which does not make economical sense for them.
- Garment workers demanded night buses from BMTC from the areas where texttile industry was operational.
- Many participants called the attention of BMTC and other officials towards private buses operating illegally on many of the popular routes where BMTC does not fill the demand. BMTC officials said traffic cops have to work on the issue.
- Many participants said AC buses were not required in areas such as Whitefield, where even ordinary buses would do well, because there is demand for buses, but travelling in volvos is a cooostly affair.
- A participant suggested half-ticket in volvos for those who have ordinary bus passes, which will increase the revenue of an other wise empty volvo bus, on certain routes. Right now those who have ordinary bus passes are not allowed to travel in volvo buses.
- Vinay Sreenivasa, the organiser of BBPV, wondered how the airport buses keep up their time schedule, while other buses are unable to come on time to a particular destination.
- According to an estimate, BMTC has 58 lakh commuters every day. He also wondered why the government and BBMP do not support BMTC with budget and infrastructure, while the Metro facility where much less people travel gets crores of rupees each year.
Dr Ashish Verma of Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) felt that the BBPV Bus Manifesto released on the occasion rightly states the need for an affordable, safe, accessible and comfortable public transport system. He said, “After all, a public transport system cannot be treated as a profit-making system. The BMTC should be given financial support to have a sustainable system that is available to all sections of the society. It must also be equitable.”
The conference aimed to discuss the means to build a reliable, affordable and comfortable bus system in Bangalore, which is a fundamental right in itself that enables all sections of people to realise their right to work, education and a meaningful social life and leisure.
Bussayana – a crowd-sourced collections of poems and stories by bus commuters was released on the occasion, along with a bus manifesto in Kannada and English that enlists the needs and concerns of bus commuters in Bangalore.
A citizens’ manifesto was released on the occasion, urging BMTC and other departments to work on various issues that trouble safe and affordable bus transport in the city. Various community groups of street vendors, Powrakarmikas, garment workers, sex workers, senior citizens, residents, IT workers, among other representatives of all sections of the society were present.
This is an eidted version of the press note sent by Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, with additional inputs from Shree D N.