Only Kannada people use ‘sada’ buses, says Minister Ashok

Karishma Jain, a law student at the Hosur Road-based Christ College travels by bus from her Sarjapur Road residence every day. Since Karishma does not know the local language, she says she initially found it very difficult to travel by bus as the destination boards were in Kannada. “I don’t know Kannada. But now I know the numbers and the bus routes”, she says, even as she just gets off a wrong bus, thinking it was going towards Agara through Sarjapur Road.

Karishma is among the 40 lakh passengers of Bengaluru who use the BMTC bus services every day. The BMTC has around 5600 buses plying on the city roads. Of these only about 800 have Light Emitting Diode (LED) destination boards that display information in both Kannada and English, says P K Garg, Director (Projects), BMTC. The remaining 4800 buses have painted boards with information only in Kannada, some with no boards and some with wrong route information. For commuters like Karishma, who hails from Uttar Pradesh, the language and the lack of proper information on these boards pose a problem.

BMTC buses

Only 800 BMTC buses have bilingual destination boards, while the remaining 4000-odd regular buses have Kannada-only boards. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

But Karnataka Transport Minister R Ashoka, in a telephone interview to Citizen Matters, says that “ordinary buses (which have painted destination boards only in Kannada) are used only by Kannada people”. Tell him that Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city and has a large migrant population who cannot read Kannada, he asks, “What do I do?”. He further adds that there are no plans to change these boards and make them bilingual. “Only the new buses will have LED”, he says.

For their part, BMTC drivers and conductors, who really ply the system and meet commuters every day, feel that it would be good to have bilingual boards. “For people outside it’s difficult. It’s only the new buses that are getting LED. These buses are old. People ask us what the route of the bus is. Most of these people are those who can’t read at all and others ask because they want to reconfirm the route”, says Conductor B G Siddaram. BMTC bus driver Madhukar M also says that the boards should have English and Kannada but feels that the old boards will not be changed.

In line with those views, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) Staff and Workers Federation says it has raised this issue with BMTC officials on many occasions earlier, but nothing has come of it. Says H V Anantha Subbarao, General Secretary of the federation, “We have pointed to the concerned authorities. See, ultimately it’s for the public.”  KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation is the state-level union for employees of KSRTC, BMTC and state-owned transport corporations elsewhere in Karnataka.

BMTC buses

BMTC drivers and conductors, who really ply the system and meet commuters every day, feel that it would be good to have bilingual boards. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal

Subbarao says earlier, he used to receive complaints from commuters. “About a year back some people from Kolkata, who were in Bangalore, called me and told me. See, not much people complain. They should come up and speak. They should bring it to their notice. We’ll see, we’ll see if we can follow up now”, he adds.

Unsettled and lingering

The issue of language on destination boards of BMTC buses is not a new one. Indiranagar resident K V Pathy, a former member of the BMTC Commuter Comfort Task Force and  who has been traveling by BMTC buses for the past four decades, also feels that the destination boards should be bilingual. “Some years back, Mr. P G R Sindhia, the then Transport Minister, took a team to UK for study. When he returned, I suggested that he should make the bus name boards like what he must have seen on London buses, very well visible, lighted, easy to read from a long distance. Even today this is not done”, he says.

BMTC set up the task force in September 2003 with various civil society representatives as its members to make policy recommendations on urban transport. Pathy says that the task force had recommended bilingual boards then. “It is only a basic requirement, among others that the route numbers should be of sufficiently large size, which can be at the centre of the board with the destination written on either side in English and Kannada, again in large letters with good lighting at night. The route numbers should be also provided at the entry to the bus in addition to front and back sides. Needless to say all numbers should be same”, he adds.

BMTC buses

The BMTC has around 5600 buses plying on the city roads. Pic: Vaishnavi Vittal.

Like the Transport Minister, BMTC officials also say there are no plans to change the destination boards of the old buses. Garg says that someone or other raises the issue, from time to time. He calls it a ‘sensitive issue’. “It becomes difficult…Let it be as it is. As and when it comes, we will see. If I raise the issue, they’ll say you are from North (India), that’s why you are saying this”, says Garg.

Views from pro-Kannada groups

Former MLA Vatal Nagaraj of the Kannada Chalavali Vatal Paksha says that the Kannada-only boards must not be changed and those who live in the city should learn the language. “Kannada language should prosper. This is Karnataka state. Kannada is the state language. Those who come here should learn Kannada”, he says. In the same vein,  he says he is not opposed to the new bilingual LED boards for the higher-end buses and ‘accepts’ that as the government’s decision.

M Narasimha, Secretary, Udayabhanu Kalasangha, a volunteer-based literary, cultural and social organization, however, is not opposed to the bilingual signs for the regular buses. “Let English and Kannada be there, no problem. But Kannada should come first”, he says. 

What’s your take on Kannada signboards in BMTC buses?

Most people in the blue buses can read Kannada.

Signboards don’t matter, I always ask

I don’t use BMTC buses as I can’t read Kannada

I don’t use regular buses, but bilingual signboards are important


But even citizens who know the local language find it difficult to read the Kannada boards. Engineering student Veena S, who travels between HSR Layout and KR Market everyday, says, “I find it difficult to read Kannada fast. It would be good to have both English and Kannada”.

The state government is looking to promote public transport in Bangalore. The higher-end buses – Big 10, Vayu Vajra, and Suvarna — all run with bilingual electronic destination boards, and meanwhile the principal fleet of “ordinary” buses are stuck with their painted (only) Kannada boards. With Transport Minister R Ashoka stating matter-of-factly that these buses are used only by Kannada people, the Karishmas and Veenas amongst the 40 lakh bus users in the city will certainly not be amused.  

About Vaishnavi Vittal 140 Articles
Vaishnavi Vittal is a Bangalore-based journalist.

61 Comments

  1. It is very necessary for all buses to have the destination and number written in English language and Arabic numerals APART from the ones in Kannada.However, I would like to point out some experiences of mine in buses in Bangalore. People traveling in ordinary (saada) buses DO speak mostly in Kannada. It may not be an exaggeration to say that if one wants to hear how Kannada is spoken , the right place would be these buses ! It is also not surprising since the average Kannadiga/ local person is less affluent and cannot afford his/ her own vehicle. It is also unfortunate that that quite a few people in the city (our own colleagues, relatives etc ) think that it is beneath their dignity to travel by bus (let us leave out the readers of Citizen Matters since the very fact that they do read this shows some awareness on their part !). All of us do have to do our bit in promoting public transport. WE NEED BETTER BUSES WHICH TAKE US EVERYWHERE AND WHICH ALSO TELL US WHERE THEY ARE GOING IN AT LEAST 2 LANGUAGES.

  2. @Priyank,

    Usage of English numerals in BMTC is absolutely needed. But the demand for bi-lingual language in not just BMTC but all public transport all over India is a dire need as all cities are getting choked because of over-population and narrow politics doesn’t help. We need to desperately clear our cities of chaos by encouraging public transport and bi-lingual boards are a small step in that direction. People should not miss their bus simply because they could not read the destination board on the bus. Those people would eventually take an auto or a taxi to commute, only to add to the chaos. Bi-lingual boards make things simpler and public transport more friendly to whoever is using it. All big cities in India desperately need to encourage and upgrade public transport and discourage private transport. Ultimately, language is a means of communication and the more easier the communication, the simpler life would be.

  3. @Gautam,
    I understood what you are trying too say.
    To show you that I am not silent about English-only boards, I gave links to few of my blogs in my earlier posts. Please go through them.
    Regarding the globalisation and the impact, I wouldnt talk about them here as the topic is broader.
    The Arabic numerals are used by BMTC along with the Kannada numerals – I wonder why you haven’t noticed them. Arabic numerals are what you are referring to as English numerals.
    These numerals – being universal – are helpful for people who do not know to read Kannada.
    The inclusion of English alone wouldnt suffice the need you are citing. So, let us not waste our energy on demanding English in BMTC. Instead, let us work towards making Karnataka a place where information flows smoothly to each and every person who knows Kannada only. I am sure you must have noticed several hospitals/shops/hoardings where information in Kannada is absent.
    @Citizenmatters,
    I join Gautam in demanding you to come out with an article about English-only hospitals/shops/hoardings around Bangalore.

  4. @Priyank,

    I think citizenmatters should come out with another article about English-only boards in posh areas causing inconvenience to non-English speaking residents. I would join you in support of bi-lingual boards there.

  5. Priyank,

    “””””4. People who are vocal in demanding for English are not raising any voice for demanding Kannada usage also. Why the double standards?
    5. People shouldn’t be divided on language basis. Thats the exact reason why I am saying “let’s treat everybody as a Kannadiga”””””

    If this article had been in reverse, that is, English-only boards were in usage, I would certainly write the same stuff demanding Kannada boards along with English. I think you should concentrate on those high and mighty people who have English-only boards on their offices, especially, in posh areas such as MGs, Brigades and Koramangala. You guys are silent there and make a noise about bi-lingual boards in ordinary buses. Its strange.

    Having said that, usage of all Indian languages, especially Kannada, is reducing day by day due to globalisation and cultural changes in India. Its very unfortunate. Major cultures and religions of the world themselves are losing ground now to crass commercialisation and consumerism. In other words, consumerism and money are the new religions of the world. If this can happen to major religions of the world, not surprising that it can happen to local languages. We Indians have no respect for our own culture and values and our mentality hasn’t changed after the British left. Its worsened now.

    I think we should be conscious of being Indians first and then whatever else. We should treat others as fellow human being and whatever next. Not the other way round.

  6. CONTINUED….I guess the BMTC must have requested the Kannada Sangha people not to make a noise about bi-lingual boards in Volvo because they would undergo severe loss. Big people who own Malls, BIAL, MNCs, Corporate hospitals etc would put pressure on Kannada Sanghas or their equivalents in other parts of India to ensure that they continue with their bi-lingual (Sometimes English-only) boards. Ministers who swear by Kannada have all their kids go to corporate schools. So, this is a double standard. You have no problems with big people, corporates, BIAL but have a big problem with ordinary buses. Isn’t this strange? Priyank there are many shops on M.G. road with English-only boards. Why are silent about them? Why are you against bi-lingual boards and silent about English-only boards on M.Gs and Brigades?

  7. @Priyank,

    “””””Few have put forward an argument here that, the number of Kannadigas in Bangalore is less, hence the need for English boards. According to a study, number of Indians who understand English stands at 7% of the population. Despite the statistics, if we go ahead and include English, will it be sufficient?””””””

    This is a complete misunderstanding. I have repeatedly clarified that I am referring to not just Bangalore but the entire India, as this kind of narrow politics and regionalism exists in all parts of India. If an Indian can settle in any part of India, travel and move freely, there has to be a pan-India language that would facilitate this movement. Otherwise, we can have citizenship for all 28 states separately and ban movement of people. Regarding English speaking population, even an illiterate today can read English (Roman numerals). Our currency is in English. If we go by your logic, all 28 states should have a different currency. Strangely, you don’t have any problem with 5 star hotels, volvos, trains, Malls, BIAL, corporate hospitals, MNCs, big media houses etc displaying English banners and boards. But you have a problem only with BMTC ordinary buses. Where are your principles when it comes to them?

  8. A follow up to my previous post,

    4. People who are vocal in demanding for English are not raising any voice for demanding Kannada usage also. Why the double standards?
    5. People shouldn’t be divided on language basis. Thats the exact reason why I am saying “let’s treat everybody as a Kannadiga”. Lets be inclusive. We need an environment in Bangalore where everybody gets treated as a Kannadiga – equality.

    Let me know your thoughts on these.

  9. @Ashwin,
    My words have been mis-understood by you.
    I am not trying to spread any hatredness here.
    I do not consider anybody from outside Karnataka as an Idiot but I consider he/she as a fellow human being.
    Now that I have clarified my views on your questions, let me put forward few more thoughts for you to ponder over.
    1. Few have put forward an argument here that, the number of Kannadigas in Bangalore is less, hence the need for English boards. According to wikipedia entry – provided by Gautam – the number of native Kannada speakers are 39%. However, there are many people who consider themselves Kannadigas but speak a different language at home. Hence the number of Kannadigas in Bangalore is more than 70%. The same is reflected by the content aired by FM stations. The FM radios which have large listenership, air Kannada only content.
    2. According to a study, number of Indians who understand English stands at 7% of the population. Despite the statistics, if we go ahead and include English, will it be sufficient? If the number of migrants from a particular state hits a certain number in future, shall we go ahead and include that language also? After some time, one more addition.. This will be never ending.
    3. The people who are arguing for inclusion of English saying “it provides a clear means of communication for people who do not know Kannada”, have the same people noticed the need for Kannada at certain places?
    If they have, why not make an article about that? Is it because people who know only Kannada have no strong social voice? For more clarity on what I am trying to highlight here, please read: http://karnatique.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-medicine-minus-kannada-is-poison.html

  10. @aswin,

    “””Whoever steps on karnataka’s or Andhra’s or Tamilnad’s soil should sit and learn to write/read kannada/telugu/tamil text and numbers.”””

    I need to correct you here. This problem is not unique to these states. This is an All-India problem. The Hindi speaking states have similar feelings about south Indians and North east people. North east people are looked down upon in both north India and south India. Gujrathis don’t like Maharastrians and vice versa. Just a few examples. I had a tough time when I tried to catch a bus in Pune years ago as all boards were in pure Marathi. I had to shell out Rs100/- on an auto then (100 was a big amount then). In Chennai, I have the same problem. But luckily, chennai transport system is far better than any other city in India and hence the problem is not felt so immensely with regard to Tamil-only boards. In the north, its as bad as it is there.

  11. I am surprised to see a few people arguing against bilingual boards. I am sure having a Kannada-only board does NOT bolster anyone’s pride!

    @Priyank.
    Just two questions. Please choose one of the options.

    1. How do you want to treat a person you meet on the road who says he can’t read kannada-only boards?
    a) A fellow human being
    b) A non-kannadiga idiot

    2. Language is ONLY a means of communication. It was invented so that what we can share our feelings and ideas with other human beings.
    a) Yes, of course.
    b) No, Language is the very reason I survive. My language is the greatest. Whoever steps on karnataka’s or Andhra’s or Tamilnad’s soil should sit and learn to write/read kannada/telugu/tamil text and numbers.

    If you choose the As, you see you have no arguments here.
    If you choose the Bs, there is no point trying to talk sense here. Whichever way, let us not fill this forum with hatred for fellow humans. I believe we are better than that.

    Personally, I don’t care if the person is from Timbuktu. He’s here because he likes this city or works here contributing in taxes to the development of the place You and I live in and we should make his life easier too. Not just ours.

    As far as traffic regulation is concerned, I agree signboards are not going to solve all our issues, but is certainly a step forward.

  12. @Prayank,

    I wonder what you mean by protecting all cultures and languages and havign separate states for all. There are 1000 languages in India and a million different cultures. But there are only 28 states. Where is the representation then?

    I also do not believe that these people were statesman by any standards. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the level of problems that we have today, be it in terms of corruption, etc.

    The problem is not with languages. It is with the consciousness of language and region. The problem is that most people in India are conscious of their region, language, caste first and then think about the nation. I am the other way round.

  13. @Gautam,
    if you do not find any relevance to what I am saying, convey the same. I will try elaborate and highlight the points so that it makes sense to you. Please do not use words such as “arguing for the sake of it”.
    Dr. Ambedkar was clearly of the view that not dividing the states on linguistic basis would lead to problems which no statesman can handle.
    I guess you will be more interested in, http://karnatique.blogspot.com/2009/09/dr-b-r-ambedkar-on-indias-language.html and http://karnatique.blogspot.com/2009/09/forced-juxtaposition-theory-of-hatred.html .
    You must be knowing well that the different languages and cultures existed.
    While integrating them and bringing them under one roof, people promised themselves that every language and culture must thrive here in this land. If one langauge or culture fails, it means the whole of India has failed.
    Regarding the question that “Aren’t we Indians first and belong to their regions second?”, I would say please read this: http://enguru.blogspot.com/2007/09/blog-post_30.html
    We can discuss about that after you’ve read the article.
    Secondly, you entered this debate without knowing that you are demanding things which may impact the future generations to come in variety of ways. We are talking of bigger sociological things here, not narrow politics.
    Integrity through a nation is a far bigger thing than languages. Please understand that language has lesser role to play in the integration of a multi-lingual country like India. Despite being divided linguistically, India has stood strong and united for six decades now. A stronger Karnataka, a stronger Tamil Nadu, a stronger Andhra Pradesh will naturally result in stronger India. We should concentrate our efforts to strive and achieve a pan-Karnataka unity and growth. Thus, we naturally bring pan-India unity and growth.
    Dont be under the assumption that multiple languages will divide the country and lead to its downfall, come out of it.

  14. @Kishore,

    If you stand for that principle, first remove all the bi-lingual boards from Malls, BIAL, volvo buses, Trains, five-star hotels and then come back to me. Why are you bending backwards for the high and mighty? You are having double standards. One rule for the ordinary class who travel by ‘sada BMTC vahana’ and another for upper classes. You are also conveniently forgetting the fact that my reference has always been for all of India, not just Bangalore. When you go to another city, you have a hell of time if you want to catch a bus, unless you have money. I am saying this from personal experience. Why are you promoting regionalism? Fisrt get all the children of Ministers and MLAs to study in govt. Kannada medium schools. Why are you bending backwards for them?

  15. @Priyank,

    These are endless arguments. I have no time for all this. And we are also diverting from the core issue of public transport becoming more user-friendly with different improvements including usage of bi-lingual language. I am saying that this is needed throughout India and in all cities. It is not just about Bangalore. Are people Indians first or do they belong to their region first? Regarding statistics of floating population, even the govt. may not have it. There are rough estimates of people going to different cities. FM radios, wherever they operate, have to follow certain norms and laws. Local language of that region is one such thing they have to adhere to. Radio Indigo is a channel that is dedicated to English music. Does that reflect the demography?

    Finally, integration is wonderful! But why cannot that happen on an All-India basis? How can you divide people on the basis of language and then expect ‘integration’ to happen?

  16. @Priyank,

    I think you are arguing just for the sake of it. When I said that they were not saints, I meant to say that they were selfish politicians with vested interest. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had India and Pakistan. You very know what I mean. But still arguing with me about “ಲೌಕಿಕ” and “ಅಲೌಕಿಕ”. These so-called social scientists were clever enough to twist facts. In that link, Ambedkar has clearly said that division on the basis of language is dangerous. Yet, he went ahead with it. Everything is shown to be rosy outside. But inside, we all know what is happening. Come on, don’t be so innocent. After dividing India into religion, caste, creed, region etc they went ahead with language in the garb of “protecting the different cultures, different languages, different races under one roof.” India has a thousand different languages, a million cultures, and several races. Then why have 28 states? Now several more states are facing further division. Demands are there. By the way, lets not deviate from the topic. We need something on a pan-India basis, beyond narrow linguistic politics.

  17. @Gautam,
    “”we were referring to passenger-friendly public transport and bi-lingual boards””

    why do you want to bend so much before the “floating population” as you call it. Every city has floating population and people from all across Karnataka also come to Bengaluru.

    Those few outsiders who come here to settle down, will learn Kannada and merge with the main stream if we provide such a convenient environment where they can practice what they have learnt.

    Today Bilingual boards, tomorrow there will be trilingual boards.. there is no end to this.

  18. @Gautam,
    Regarding the division of states:
    You mentioned that founding fathers were no saints.
    Yes, they were not. But they were social scientists who were experts in society and life matters. Saints have expertise in “beyond the life” concerns and shouldn’t be consulted for devising a social setup.
    There is a clear difference between “ಲೌಕಿಕ” and “ಅಲೌಕಿಕ”. Saints belong to ಅಲೌಕಿಕ school of thought. Social scientists belong to ಲೌಕಿಕ school of thought.
    I guess you didn’t go through the link I provided in my previous comment regarding the states-division. In the link, excerpts from Dr.Ambedkar’s works are mentioned and it clearly highlights the need for states on linguistic basis. The country India was formed with the promise of protecting the different cultures, different languages, differet races under one roof. That is the exact reason why states are given governments to rule themselves.
    The other problems of regionalism you mentioned – Coorg, North Karnataka, Rayalseema – can easily be dealt with if state governments are given the power to understand and address the issues in an inclusive way.
    In the current setup, central government reserves those rights. At the centre – as you must be well aware – help will be faster based on the number of MP seats one has. People of Coorg have been holding demnostrations in Delhi for over a decade now. Still, none of the central governments so far have listened to their voice and acted. Reason: whole of Coorg has only one seat.

  19. @Gautam,
    I have no idea of the percentage of the floating population in Bangalore or any other city of India. Please share if you have any data – I would like to educate myself.
    Secondly, I never mentioned that FM stations are a measure of statistic. The FM stations have commercial interest and as Kannada sells in Bangalore, majority of them play Kannada songs. This indicates that majority understand Kannada and consider themselves Kannadigas though their native tongue is different. Contrary to your earlier statement that 69% of Bangalore’s population is from outside.
    The other inference from FM stations data is, over a period everybody integrate well with the mainstream. There is nothing like “you” and “me” here. Whoever is new here, will be “part of us” later.
    Isn’t it a beautiful thing?
    Don’t you want such a thing to happen in our city?

  20. @Priyank,

    The founding fathers of modern India were no saints. It was indeed “a well thought-out process” to divide the country. Our own Indian govt. and the founding fathers have humbled the British in the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy. Much of history has been manipulated to the extent where evidence is not available. First, they divided India into India and Pakistan. Then, they divided it on linguistic states. There are already demands for more states in various parts of India (Almost all states have these demands on them). For example, Coorg, N.Karnataka, Vidharbha and Rayalseema. There was never a justification for formation of states on the basis of language. Look at the result of that now. Even a simple sign board on buses is being politicised.

  21. @Priyank,

    It is a well-known fact that all major cities in India have a huge floating population, which is unaccounted for in these statistics. The 39% figure is for residents who are permanent. What about floating population? I am referring to all cities and not just Bangalore. FM radio cannot be taken as a guide to statistics. They have a commercial interest and have to adhere to norms. By the way, we were referring to passenger-friendly public transport and bi-lingual boards. Why are you bringing in demography here? There is a need for some communication on a pan-India basis, apart from local language in all parts of India. Lets not divert issue from this.

  22. @Gautam,
    Wikipedia entry says that Bangalore has 39% native Kannada speakers.
    However, the number of people who identify themselves as belonging to Karnataka are more in Bangalore. Many have migrated over the centuries and speak Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Urdu or Hindi at home. However, the same people identify themselves as Kannadigas – with pride.
    If their numbers are considered, number of Kannadigas in Bangalore would be much more than 70%. Thats reflected in the content aired in majority of FM stations in Bangalore – which is Kannada.
    So, let us not divide the people based on language. Many have seemlessly joined the mainstream over the years, so will the others who migrated recently. If only we provide the right environment for them.
    The right environment can not be established by regularly insisting that they are outsiders. They all should be treated like a Kannadiga in Bangalore.
    Please let me know if you differ with my views expressed in this comment.

  23. Priyank,

    Charu Sharma is saying exactly what I have been saying. Are you a united India or a divided India where, if we want to travel, we have to think twice? Nobody is banning out of state people from entering BMTC buses or PTC busses in Chennai or DTC buses in Delhi etc. Its about inclusiveness and having English boards in all cities is a part of that.

  24. Priyank,

    Definately so. There was a lot of politics behind division of country on the basis of language in the 1950s, quite against what was showcased (for administration purposes). The politicians have succeeded and this article and the replies/ arguments are an example of it. I have even heard of a story where states were divided over a closed door meeting where all of them were drunk and a map of India was taken and with a scissors, they cut it into different segments with you take this part, he takes that one and so on. (I cannot substantiate this at all; had heard somebody telling me this) But whatever it maybe, language has become a tool for politicians to divide India and make hay. These politicians who swear by Kannada get their children admitted to international English schools; same time they want local kannadigas from poor and middle classes to read and study only Kannada. This has resulted in outsiders taking away cosy jobs in IT/ tech companies. Look at this hypocrisy. Those who swear by kannada do the opposite in their personal lives.

  25. @Charu Sharma,
    Isn’t BMTC for all?
    I’ve never heard anybody saying he/she was not allowed inside a BMTC bus because he/she is from such and such place.

  26. Priyank,

    Thank you for those links. I will go through them. About the information about Bangalore’s demography, there are varying from site to site. But there are a few: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/JD02Df01.html

    I still hold the view that all cities in India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai etc. should have bi-lingual boards for the sake of convenience and courtesy. We should look from a pan-India basis and not seek to divide people on the basis of language. This is exactly what politicians want. Lets not walk into their trap.

  27. I do not understand why are we making a fuss out of all this. Is it that big an issue as we are trying to make it? Don’t we as an Indian have the fundamental right to live and travel anywhere in India? I am sure we do. So, why can’t we just work towards making the travelling for all. Is it so difficult to understand???

  28. @Gautam,
    Do you have the opinion that the country India must not have been divided on linguistic basis?
    Now that you have brought it up, please clarify your views on this.

  29. @Chaitanya,

    I beg to differ with you. Chennai is highly regionalistic and parochial. is that something to emulate? Many politicians have built empires based on the vulnerabilities of Tamils and their disposition towards language and stuff. This is an all-India problem. Thanks to the division of India on the basis of re-organisation of states on the basis of language. If narrow language politics is good for Bangalore, lets have it full swing. Lets ban English altogether. This is Karnataka afterall. Maybe, in Chennai, they can ban English after seeing us. Regionalism is a big problem all over India.

  30. Our Govt is doing good job & for those who come for livelihood , can compare there states. In chennai we cannot see one english word in any buses/shops !! if we want to settle in chennai,we should know either tamil nor Rajinikanth !!

  31. For those who came from outside shouls respect kannada also they should learn kannada to read these boards

  32. Gautam,
    Thanks for the replies.
    The Arabic numerals are the ones that are used in today’s BMTC bus numbering. These numbers are used by people who can not read Kannada in determining the route of the bus.
    I have been actively demanding for usage of Kannada wherever it is important.
    You might be interested in these blogs of mine,
    http://www.vismayanagari.com/node/4483
    http://www.vismayanagari.com/node/3834
    http://www.vismayanagari.com/node/4945
    Do go through them.
    These are cases where language is an issue. We need effort and action in that direction.
    Let us not waste our effort in demanding something which is not much of a problem.
    One more question I have is, from where did you gather the data that 65% of people in Bangalore have come from outside?

  33. CONTINUED………2. I did not say that traffic congestion would reduce by 20% of boards are replaced. This is a very narrow perspective. I said that if all these suggestions are put together and public transport is improved, congestion would reduce by atleast 20%. The suggestions are in plenty but only a few have been indicated by me here. Having good quality boards, with proper font and style, bi-lingual language etc would definately be a part of those suggestions to improve. Everything adds up. 3. People would start using public transport more if it is friendly, convenient and courteous. Ability to read numbers is a part of that. Bi-lingual numbers are needed as people travel extensively and are used to English numerals more than any other. Lastly, when we take things to extreme, we lose out. Politicians across the world, not just in India, are fishing on these human weaknesses of ‘You’ and ‘Me’, the outsider and the localite. Be Roman in Rome is fine. But why are you not insisting that to Malls, BIAL, High Court, Five star hotels, Trains and Volvo buses? If we go by this, we need a different currency for 28 different states of India! When you travel to Chennai and Mumbai, or any other place, you claim to seek help. Both these places are quite parochial by any standards. People are not always obliged to give you a reply. Not all and not always do people give correct replies. Are we going to simplify things or make things complex by bringing in extraneous issues that whip up parochial feelings? There are simple solutions to complex problems and complex solutions to simple problems. We seem to love to complicate things.

  34. Priyank,

    “””””1. People (including you) can read English easily despite learning Kannada and English both.
    – as I pointed out earlier, such people are very very rare.2. The traffic congestion would reduce by 20% if boards are in English.
    – Thats an opinion not based on any study or research. 3. People will start using BMTC buses if boards are in English.”””””

    Let me counter your statements in the same order.

    1. About 65% of Bangalore is from outside. In Mumbai, it is worse. 30% of Mumbai are Marathis. Rest are all from outside. It is similar in other big cities. Nobody is asking for removing of existing boards. Its an alteration that is required for the convenience of passengers. Even vernacular (kannada, Marathi, etc) numerals need to be of a standard size, of a standard and uniform font and colour with proper illumination. English numerals are universal. Even our currency is in English. Our ability to spot and recognise English numerals far exceeds other languages. (This is sad but true). Finally, the cost of improving existing boards is a pittance compared to hi-fi solutions of metro rail. Metro rail has its own place. These small things make a lot of difference in commuting – be it Kannada speaking or not. Read my reply carefully. I have stated that even Kannada numerals need to be of a certain standard. In addition, we need English for convenience.

  35. @Gautam,

    This is a good way to debate. Thanks that you complied for my request.

    Let me answer the questions you posted one by one.
    1. Punctuality, stopping the buses at bus-stops.
    – Yes, needed.
    2. Courteous crew, dedicated bus lane.
    – Yes, needed.
    Fight for them.
    My whole argument was against the points you made – which are listed below – as a case for pressing the need for English boards.
    1. People (including you) can read English easily despite learning Kannada and English both.
    – as I pointed out earlier, such people are very very rare.
    2. The traffic congestion would reduce by 20% if boards are in English.
    – Thats an opinion not based on any study or research.
    3. People will start using BMTC buses if boards are in English.
    – People will use only if it suits much of their needs. Many do not use regular BMTC because it does not fit their route, the crowd in buses, AC or timings.
    If I am in a different place like Chennai or Mumbai, I would rather seek help from somebody nearby than waiting for 30 mins. I’ve done the same whenever I’ve traveled to other states in India.
    As the old saying goes “Be a Roman in Rome”.

    A final word: Your concerns are valid regarding multiple things. In the issues you mentioned, separate lanes, punctuality, courteousness take the first priority to be addressed. Press for them on priority basis. Issue of language just because you cant read Kannada faster – definitely not a priority.

  36. @Priyank,

    “””””I observed that you are mixing too many issues here. We can talk about them one after the other, otherwise the discussion will be very much out of sync. First one is, the issue is not merely about language but upgrading the public transport.Yes, I agree.Public transport has to be improved. Simply replacing the boards will add to any improvement? I dont think so.””””””

    If you say that kannada should be given importance in Malls, airports, volvo buses and trains, fight for Kannada-only boards in all these big places. Why are you concentrating on only ordinary buses?

    There is no mix-up of issues. I am just bringing in other issues to show the dichotomy.

    Regarding boards, improvement of boards improves usage of public transport. I have seen many people taking autos after waiting for a long time and not getting another bus because they missed the previous bus, for whatever reason (Lack of clarity of numbers including). To say that we don’t need good boards and good communication is incorrect. Punctuality, stopping buses at the bus-stops, good and visible boards in bi-lingual language and in good font size, on all sides of the bus, courteous crew, dedicated bus lanes all help in improving public transport. To single out one aspect of these and question it is naive. It is like asking : Does courtesy and stopping at bus stops help in improving public transport?

    Everything adds on. Courteous crew, stopping at bus stops, good, big and visible boards etc all go a long way in promoting public transport. Definately yes. You wait for a direct bus for 30 mins and due to poor visibility or inability to decipher Kannada numbers or Marathi numbers (In Pune and Mumbai) or Tamil numerals in Chennai, you miss the bus! How fair is this? Do boards help in public transport? Now you answer that.

  37. Gautam,
    The questions you posted are not making me uncomfortable – rest assured. I am happy to debate with you on these issues.

    As you mentioned, Kannada must be given importance in all the places. Be it, airport, volvo, malls or five-star hotels. Anywhere the due importance not being given is an objectionable thing.

    I observed that you are mixing too many issues here. We can talk about them one after the other, otherwise the discussion will be very much out of sync.

    First one is, “the issue is not merely about language but upgrading the public transport”.
    Yes, I agree.
    Public transport has to be improved.
    Simply replacing the boards will add to any improvement? I dont think so.
    The congested roads will still remain.

    Let me know your thoughts on this.

  38. Priyank,”””I didn’t want to mix too many things in my comments. Hence, I did not speak about bi-lingual boards in volvo buses and tri-lingual ones in trains. Its prudent to debate with real statistics I feel. Otherwise, the debate looks like shooting in the dark.”””

    Where is the question of mixing too many things? There is the question of public transport and the issue of Kananda language and you stand for a principle. Now, why is your principle applicable only to ordinary BMTC buses and not for trains and Volvos? Why not for Bangalore airport, Malls and Five-star hotels? Why not for five-star resorts? Why not for the high court? Do you have a selective application of principles? You seem to be uncomfortable with me asking you very uncomfortable questions.

  39. CONTINUED…….5. Metro is not the panacea for the ills of Bangalore’s transport. Rs20000 crores are being spent on it. More than 15000 crores of this are going into the coffers of contractors, politicians, bureaucrats etc. A govt. that plays politics all the time cannot be expected to solve any problems, big or small. If a simple thing like proper display of boards, illumination of boards, bi-lingual and with good font size cannot be done for political reasons, what can we expect from a Rs20000/- crores project? Its naive to say that public transport cannot improve with a bi-lingual policy, with clear boards and with good communication. Having more buses under JNNURM is welcome. But common sense is more required. Populism is over-riding common sense.

  40. Continued…….Now, let me counter all your arguments. 1. My slowness in reading Kannada or your speed in reading it is not the issue. We are not talking about personal issues. The city and all other cities in India have a huge migrant population. Even many localities in all these cities are not too comfortable in reading their own language numbers. The issue is not merely about language. It is more of convenience and improving public transport. 2. There is no doubt that the introduction of bi-lingual boards, and with good font size etc would improve public transport to an extent. What the extent is another issue altogether. To allow deficient service to continue and to clutter our roads to whatever extent it may be, just because we didn’t have a proper communication on public buses with proper display of numbers etc. is our stupidity. 3. This is the exact point of debate. You guys have created a class division among the people. In Volvos, it is bi-lingual because “Office-goers” take it. In ordinary buses, it has to be Kannada only. Yes, BMTC needs to be appreciated for its double-standards and hypocrisy. Is Kannada learning exempt for office-goers? Do migrant labourers have to suffer and pay more for travel by auto just because of this kind of politics that we are playing? So where is the pride of Kannada in volvos? Your arguments for ordinary buses should be applicable to volvos too. 4. If railways have tri-lingual boards, you guys should oppose it because it goes against your principles. If Kannada is not being used in trains within Karnataka, it is a serious matter. You should fight for it. I will support you in that.

  41. Priyank,”””I didn’t want to mix too many things in my comments. Hence, I did not speak about bi-lingual boards in volvo buses and tri-lingual ones in trains. Its prudent to debate with real statistics I feel. Otherwise, the debate looks like shooting in the dark.”””I have personally seen and even this very article on citizenmatters proves the point that volvo buses have bi-lingual boards. Vatal Nagaraj has no answer to this hypocrisy. I keep travelling by trains and I know that all boards are multi-lingual or atleast tri-lingual. What more real statistics do you want?

  42. Priyank,

    “”””My argument is that, English boards – though unnecessary – will never be sufficient to handle the problems you are talking about.
    Few cases, I would like to mention here are:1. Bangalore has majority of migrant labour population from adjacent states. These people know to read and write their language (neither Kannada nor English) alone. What do we do for them? Introduce boards in their language too?”””””

    If you feel that English boards are unnecessary, first of all, remove all of them from FIVE STAR HOTELS and all Malls. Why talk about Kannada and its glory only on ordinary buses of BMTC? Real glory of Kannada would be appreciated if all Malls, Five star hotels, are in Kannada and all children of Ministers (Including Vatal Nagaraj) study in govt. Kannada medium schools. They want to keep ordinary Kannadigas below poverty line by talking about “Kannada pride” and they themselves don’t want to adopt to it. English boards along with Kannada boards will help a long way in improving BMTC public transport standards. It is not the panacea for all ills of Bangalore. I never said that it can solve all problems. But a part of the problems associated with public transport usage in its current form would get solved. Having Kannada-only boards in ordinary class buses of BMTC is not going to help the plight of Kannadigas. Real progress would happen when Kannadigas storm all BPOs, IT companies which are as of now being hijacked by outsiders because the local govt. played langauge politics and deprived Kannadigas the opportunities for improving their skills. Regarding migrant labour population, they can very well read English numbers. Today, nobody can survive without that. Try to give a migrant, illiterate Rs50/- after getting work from him of worth Rs500/- and you will know that. Atleast for the sake of money, illiterates from Bihar and U.P. know the difference between Rs5/- and Rs 22/-. They can read numbers very well.

  43. @Priyank,

    “””Associating the day-to-day life’s problems with the language policy of BMTC is not making any sense Gautam. The more serious issues in life that you are talking about have more different ways to tackle them. Language is not a means to tackle them – dont be confused that it is.””””

    I meant to say that if you really want to improve the living standards of Kannadigas and do some justice, get your priorities right. You are wasting so much time on language issue as though Kannadigas would progress only by having Kannada boards in BMTC buses. Think for a moment. What are you doing about reducing high fares? What are you doing to reduce high cost of living? Are you going to concentrate on fighting for Kannada-only boards and forget about high fares, traffic problem etc. BMTC’s language policy is causing inconvenience to public as many people are forced to commute by autos and other means. This is adding to the chaos in the streets. Language is a diversionary tactic to evade more serious issues of high fares, rude staff, corruption, deficient service etc. Moreover, you still haven’t answered my question. Why are you silent about bi-lingual boards in volvo buses and tri-lingual boards in trains? [I am asking this the third time]Are volvo buses and trains not public places? Language is being misused to cover-up deficient services not just by BMTC but other public transport systems in other cities such cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata etc. If we go by this logic, tomorrow, Bal Thakaray and his nephew would demand ‘Marathi-only’ boards on all inter-state trains passing through Maharastra. This would mean that Karnataka Express that passes through Maharastra would have Marathi only boards. I see no sense in this. Language is a diversionary tactic. Its misuse of language.

  44. Follow up to my previous comment…..

    My argument is that, English boards – though unnecessary – will never be sufficient to handle the problems you are talking about.
    Few cases, I would like to mention here are:
    1. Bangalore has majority of migrant labour population from adjacent states. These people know to read and write their language (neither Kannada nor English) alone. What do we do for them? Introduce boards in their language too?
    2. The section of society I mentioned in my point#1 happen to be a good percentage of population that travels around the city in BMTC.
    3. The higher fares, jammed roads, lesser living space are all issues that have to be handled in multiple ways. Few of them I mentioned in my previous post.
    4. After all, how many BMTC buses run empty? I see almost all of them running fully (sometimes over) occupied.

    Associating the day-to-day life’s problems with the language policy of BMTC is not making any sense Gautam.
    The more serious issues in life that you are talking about have more different ways to tackle them. Language is not a means to tackle them – dont be confused that it is.

  45. Gautam,

    I didn’t want to mix too many things in my comments. Hence, I did not speak about bi-lingual boards in volvo buses and tri-lingual ones in trains.

    Its prudent to debate with real statistics I feel. Otherwise, the debate looks like shooting in the dark.

    The arguments you made for the English boards are:
    1. English is easy for you to read and you find it difficult to read Kannada, despite learning both.
    – Thats your personal problem and does not make a valid case for changing BMTC.
    2. Introducing English will reduce the burden on Bangalore’s streets by atleast 20%.
    – Thats an estimation from you, but it begs for real research data. May be, the journalist who created this story can come up with the exact number on this. Till then, let us not consider this as a valid case to be debated on.
    3. Volvos have bi-lingual boards.
    – BMTC has designed the volvos as an alternative for office-goers. Many (exact percentage not known) of office-goers in Bangalore are taking Volvos. BMTC has to be appreciated for this effort. As you must be knowing, much of the office goers do not board regular BMTC because of many reasons; crowd, number of stops, AC are few to name.
    4. Railways have tri-lingual boards.
    – Many of the trains travelling within Karnataka, do not even have boards in Kannada. Is this not an issue to be considered?
    5. Public transport should improve a lot.
    – Yes. Definitely. Govt is trying to bring in Metro for the same reason. Through JNNURM, govt is purchasing more number of buses to handle the public transport issues. However, public transport does not improve by bringing in bi-lingual policy – never would.

  46. Priyank,

    “People who are debating for introduction of English signboards in BMTC with the opinion that it helps in reducing the traffic problems are nohting but truly confused souls”

    Language is a means of communication. Having easy means of communication through bi-lingual boards helps easy accessibility to public transport to those who seek it. And those who seek it and get it reduce the burden on the streets. There is no confusion about this. But the real confused souls are those who mix language with more serious issues in life. If public transport improves a lot, I estimate that the burden on the streets of Bangalore would reduce by atleast 20%. Why are you silent about having bi-lingual boards in volvo buses and tri-lingual in trains? Can I know that? I am asking you again. You are silent about it.

    I am not saying that traffic jams are happening only because of bad public transport. But public transport is a key player in reducing traffic jams.

    Regarding intelligence and the science and philosophy associated with it, I am no expert. Nor are you one. Let’s not deviate from the topic of encouraging public transport. This is not an article on “intelligence” and “souls”.

  47. @Kishore,

    “””Don’t tell Kannadigas in their own land as to where they should promote Kannada and where not to. Public places are very important means of representation of our language and culture. We will never put Kannadigas at risk by removing boards in Kannada. Stop this hate campaign against Bengalurigas and Kannadigas at large. BMTC is meant for the people of Karnataka and you happen to come here to earn your living.””””

    These statements clearly point to the fixed mindset that many people have. Assumptions are trappings set by the mind. Firstly, you assumed that I am an outsider. I have lived longer than you have in Bangalore, born and brought up. You assumed that I am seeking the removal of Kannada boards, which is NOT TRUE AT ALL. If you advocate Kannada-only boards in public places, why are you silent about Bi-lingual boards in Volvo buses? Why are you silent about Tri-lingual destination boards in trains? Is it a hate-campaign to seek bi-lingual boards in BMTC buses or buses in other cities of India? Is it a hate-campaign to seek boards that are visible, and on all sides of the buses? Is it a hate-campaign to have boards and numbers of large font size? The controversy is not about Kannada VS English. It is Kannada AND English that many are seeking so that its becomes easy to commute and reduce jams. Lastly, this problem exists in other cities as well. Regional politics is coming in the way of encouraging public transport in all cities of India. And traffic jams are happening in all cities.

  48. @Gautam,
    If anybody considers himself able to read one language faster than the other – despite learning both of them – that person by any scientiffic measure, should definitely be suffering from below average IQ.

    I never did mention anything regarding the roads and roadblocks.

    The traffic problems are highly visible and are badly managed. The need for a clearly managed traffic is high, and I agree 100% with you on this point.

    The means to bring in traffic discipline are
    1. Wider roads – we have lots in Blore, but we need more of them.
    2. Adhering to rules while granting permission for any commercial establishment – one could see commercial establishments (large ones) having sprung up on narrow roads.
    3. Strict tests while issuing driving license – brings in good road discipline and has proved to be effective traffic handler in larger cities like New York, Vancouver and Toronoto.
    4. Making good use of the railways – Alas, the central govt wouldnt agree to this.

    People who are debating for introduction of English signboards in BMTC with the opinion that it helps in reducing the traffic problems are nohting but truly confused souls.
    No matter what language signboards are introduced, untill the above mentioned efforts are taken, the traffic problems remain.

  49. @Kishore,

    I didn’t advocate removing Kannada boards. I am saying that we need English boards as well and in parallel to Kannada boards. We need them in the front, back, side and at the door so that people can use buses easily and not take cars and autos only to add to traffic jams. Putting my Kannadiga brothers and sisters at risk? I would be doing a great disservice if I advocate what you are saying. What great service is that to the locals of Bangalore when they have to pay the highest fare in India, bare with rude Conductors and Drivers, unreliable buses, (You cannot travel in Bangalore after 10 PM or before 6 7 AM, and traffic jams and highest price of food grains. Look at the plight of the ordinary Kannadiga, who is not tech-savvy like you and me. Why is he paying highest fares in India for travelling in bus?

  50. @Priyank,

    Creating more traffic jams on the roads, bringing in the issue of language and discouraging people from using public transport, having high fares (Pushpak pass is Rs600/-), poor visibility of boards, rude drivers and conductors are all not signs of above average intelligence, by any standards. The dispute is not about Kannada boards being there. Kannada boards have to be there. No question about that. The question is about having English boards in addition to Kannada boards. The question is about having boards on atleast three sides of the bus for greater convenience and visibility. The question is about having consumer comfort. The bottomline is to allow people easy and comfortable travel within the city so that not only they benefit, as public transport becomes more easy, traffic jams would reduce. Lets not play regionalism here. Traffic jams affect you and me. I am a Kannadiga myself. But we need to reduce traffic jams at all costs. If you advocate Kannada only boards, have them on Volvo buses too. Have them on all trains that enter Karnataka. Why discourage public transport in Bangalore and indirectly help create more traffic jams in Bangalore by talking about language?

  51. @Gautam
    you are a localite? So much for being a Kannadiga who would want to put their Kannadiga brothers and Sisters at risk by advocating non-Kannada boards. what a shame.

  52. @Gautam
    “”Lets keep promotion of Kannada in other places such as software companies and BPOs. “”

    Don’t tell Kannadigas in their own land as to where they should promote Kannada and where not to. Public places are very important means of representation of our language and culture. We will never put Kannadigas at risk by removing boards in Kannada. Stop this hate campaign against Bengalurigas and Kannadigas at large.

    BMTC is meant for the people of Karnataka and you happen to come here to earn your living. Be a Roman in Rome.

  53. If anybody thinks that he can read English faster than Kannada, the statment reflects the person’s below average IQ.
    Many of my colleagues who have re-located to Bangalore have learnt to read and write Kannada. They are very comfortable in reading it faster too.

  54. To all those people who advocate the usage of Kannada alone on buses, think for a moment. The issue is not about respecting Kannada or learning it. It is more of encouraging public transport and allowing free movement of people on the roads. Again it is not just about Kannada numbers but about the proper display, visibility and ensuring that people don’t clutter the streets. Lets keep promotion of Kannada in other places such as software companies and BPOs. Lets not add to traffic jams. Ultimately, everybody will be affected by this wrong move. This is a wrong move not just for Bangalore. It will be so for any city which plays such politics.

  55. The fundamental problem in this is the blunder of re-organisation of states on the basis of language. People have lost their common sense. Ashok is sounding really stupid. I have seen and I know plenty of people from outside who travel by ordinary buses. Being a localite myself, I cannot read Kannada as fast as English. This entire controversy is more of language politics and less of common sense. Plenty of hypocrisy in what Vatal Nagaraj says. He has no problem in English boards for volvo buses but has a problem only for ordinary buses. Lastly, the big question is: Do we want people not to use buses or discourage them simply because they couldn’t read Kannada numbers and clutter the roads of Bangalore with autos and cars???? This is the bigger question. Having said this, all other cities should adopt bi-lingual language including Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Delhi. Are we going to play language politics or encourage public transport?

  56. I guess it is better the way it is. One should not smash all boards and replace with english boards just becuase some people happen to come to Bengaluru in search of job.

    If they want to live here, they have learn and respect Kannada. I think the Govt. is doing a good job. Atleast it is not causing any hardship for Kannadiga commuters.

    The Kannada boards will never be replaced for the sake of those very few commuters who happen to come here for earning their livelihood.

  57. This is something I come across everyday. Being a trainee journalist, I myself did a story on this. I feel this seeks serious consideration. And the comment by Transport Minister is “silly”. He needs to check the facts before making a statement like that.

  58. Great article about our leaders’ competitive spirit in the game of mediocrity and stupidity. Ashok, the Transport Minister has stupidity written all over his face!

  59. I do not understand BMTC’s stand on listening to customer complaints. I commute everyday to office by BMTC Volvo service. If we complain on seats or the A/C problem or rash driving to the conductor, he says he cannot do anything and he says these complaints will not be attended unless large number of people complain about the same issue to BMTC customer care. When I asked how many complaints? he says he is not sure. This is the state. So I guess BMTC will not listen to conductors or drivers. As per them they will act on the complaint only if it is complained by large number of people. How pathetic it sounds!? What do you want to say to this Mr.Ashok?

    And I completely disagree with Ashok for saying only Kannada people use ‘Sada’ buses. It sounds absolutely silly to answer like this.

  60. Only Kannada speaking people travel in the ordinary buses?! What nonsense! The bus system should serve for the convenience of city residents and visitors, whether from Kannada reading or not. Is that not the basic sign of a kind courteous city? We should have bilingual boards, which are well lit, especially at night and in large font. An LED board is not particularly necessary.

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