Sexual harassment in buses: BMTC urged to take action

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PRESS RELEASE

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Officials of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation(BMTC) held a meeting with representatives of the Bangalore Bus Prayanikara Vedike (BBPV) at its Head Office in Shanthi Nagar on August 17, 2013. This followed many weeks of agitations, demonstrations and letters sent to BMTC officials following the recent steep increase in bus fares.

It was unfortunate that BMTC officials had sought police protection during the meeting. Policemen were present throughout the meeting.

From BMTC’s side, Prakash G ‐ General Manager (Traffic) (In Charge) and Veeregowda GN ‐ Chief Traffic Manager (Commercial) took part. From BBPV side, there were ten members representing trade unions, slum residents associations, human rights activists, women’s groups, sexual minorities organisations and organisations concerned with sexual harassment and gender issues.

Fare increase

On the issue of fare increases, BMTC officials refused to concede bus commuters’ demand that the recent steep increase be rolled back. Nor did they agree to approach the government for help with reducing the fares.. BMTC asked the BBPV to approach the state government on the issue of roll back of the hike.

BBPV is of the firm view that the government has to provide support to the BMTC to run an efficient service that meets the needs of all classes and sections of society.

Poor coverage of buses across the city

BBPV also raised the issue of the dearth of ordinary buses that are put at the service of ordinary commuters, the presence of expensive a/c Volvos and the chartering of BMTC buses to service IT companies and other private entities. BBPV asked for information regarding the revenues from the Volvos, chartered services and the TTMCs. BMTC has agreed to supply the information.

BBPV drew BMTC officials’ attention to the unnecessarily large number of red board buses and need to extend black board bus service within the entire current area of the BBMP. BMTC admitted that the current red‐board and black‐board system was based on the old BMP limits and agreed to consider having black board buses serve all areas within the present BBMP limits.

That the issue had not been paid attention to thus far is a reflection of the appalling state of management on the part of BMTC and how out of touch they are with the realities faced by commuters.
There are vast areas of Bangalore which the BMTC neglects callously. For instance DJ Halli is not serviced at all while LB Shastri Nagar is barely serviced . BMTC officials themselves agreed that buses bypass Bommanahalli because drivers and conductors are keen to finish their quota of trips. They agreed to take action on this. BMTC also proposes to add midi‐buses (of standard width but shorter length) for servicing crowded areas. The driver‐cum‐conductor system in single‐door buses will be ended as it causes enormous inconvenience to commuters who have to crowd around the entrance. They will henceforth have conductors.

Sexual harassment

BMTC officials have still not grasped the gravity of the issue. They seem unaware of the extent of sexual harassment that occurs inside buses and at bus stations every day, every hour, nor of the fact that their own female conductors too experience harassment. They said there were procedures to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and that drivers and conductors are expected to take buses directly to police stations in case someone raises an alert.

It was pointed out that sexual harassment is a criminal offence and that this fact, as well as procedures to deal with complaints, should be effectively communicated to all staff and commuters. BMTC officials agreed to display warning messages inside buses and in bus stands and depots.

Facilities at bus stops and bus shelters

BMTC officials said that the responsibility of bus shelters and drinking water and toilet facilities at the bus shelter is with BBMP. We will approach the BBMP for the improvement of bus shelter, drinking
water and toilet facilities.

Absence of any dialogue with bus commuters
The fact that many of these issues which ought to have been resolved long ago are being brought up by the BBPV shows that BMTC ought to have set up a system of dialogue with commuters long ago. BMTC claims to have a commuters’ committee but obviously it has had zero effectiveness. BBPV demanded that such committees be reconstituted, with the inclusion of representatives of a wide cross section of society.We also demanded regular depot‐level meetings with BMTC officials, who agreed to have such consultations at the sub‐divisional level once a quarter.

We will continue our campaign for rolling back the fare increases, for improving the operational efficiency of the BMTC as a public service and take our agitation and our efforts to the next level by approaching the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In case we do not get an opportunity to discuss this with the Chief Minister , we will launch an indefinite campaign to reduce the fare hike.

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