It was late Saturday evening. I had gone to Brigade Road for dinner with my colleagues. I was taking the bus back home since my bike was sitting in the garage. I knew I had to finish my dinner quickly and exit before 10 or I was going to have a hard time getting back home.
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Time flew by with the colleagues. Before I knew it, it was post 10.20 pm. Hastily I rushed towards the nearest bus stand.
Unfortunately, I was too late. I missed the last bus which travels from Brigade Road to Shivajinagar Bus Station. Shivajinagar is one of the major Bus Stations in the city where one can switch buses.
I knew my only other option is an autorickshaw. I tried negotiating with a line of autorickshaws standing outside M G Road Metro station but in vain. All quoted unreasonable prices such as 100 or 150 for a mere 1.5 km ride.
It was already 10.30 pm by then. In a hope to get into the last bus which leaves for R T Nagar from the Bus Terminus, I decided to walk the 1.5 km distance.
15 minutes later, I reached the bus station, but the last bus to R T Nagar had already left. Rest of the buses had come to a halt for the day. I came out of Shivajinagar Bus Stand and found many commuters running here and there, trying to find a transport.
The talk with the autos there did not work out. Most of them refused outright to go to R T Nagar, irrespective of the money offered. Eventually, a private bus stopped before me and other stranded commuters outside Shivajinagar. It was going towards Malleshwaram via Vasanthnagar.
I hopped onto the bus, wanting to get down in Vasanth Nagar. Everybody got inside the mini bus. A teenager was acting as a ticket checker inside the dark bus. He collected Rs 10 from each passenger but did not issue any receipt or tickets. He took Rs 5 from me and dropped me off at Vasanthnagar Bus Stop.
It was a sigh of relief getting out of the stuffy and dingy bus. There were 8-10 people waiting at the bus stop. I waited along with them.
Fifteen minutes later, an autorickshaw stopped right in front of me, he asked me where I wanted to go, I said, “R T Nagar.” I noticed that there were two other people already sitting in the auto. Without naming a price, the auto driver asked me to sit inside the auto.
Well, beggars cannot be choosers; I knew there wasn’t much I could do, so without further ado, I sat inside the auto. The auto guy said that one would get out of the auto mid-way and then he would drop me and the other co-passenger to R T Nagar.
Clandestinely, I asked the other passenger if he had fixed a price for the ride, he said the auto guy at first told him to give whatever he wishes, and when he sat inside the auto, he named his price as Rs 200 and since he was traveling all the way from Residency Road, it would have come up to Rs 200 on any regular day.
It was a mutual understanding among them that the auto guy won’t charge him 1 ½ above the meter, and he is free to pick up as many passengers as he wants.
The auto driver then dropped off one commuter mid-way near Jayamahal and took Rs 100 from him. Then he asked me to give Rs 150 for R T Nagar. Outraged by the fact that he was earning about Rs 600 in a single ride and still complaining, I told him Rs 100 was the best I could give.
The auto guy then gave both of us a detailed description about expenses in Bangalore and how he had rented out the auto and since the LPG prices have increased, he doesn’t earn much.
I retorted by saying he had earned enough that night to cover his expenses for fuel. This angered him. He started shouting. Finally I told him I would pay Rs 120.
By this time we had reached R T Nagar Main Road, where my co-commuter was getting off. He handed over Rs 200 and kept walking. The auto driver looked back and told me that there should me more commuters like him. He told me that he would have to go off-route to drop me and if I did not pay Rs 150, he was not willing to go there. I told him to take the auto towards White House, Dinnur Road.
In couple of minutes I got out of the auto and handed over Rs 120. He got offended and hurled abuses on me. I ultimately ended up handing over a crisp Rs 20 note to him. He drove away blabbering to himself.
This brings me to the question: What is more essential, having bars open till 1 am, or having a functional public transport till 1 am?
It was nothing new – I have experienced this earlier too. But the question is, do we have an option? Bangalore is on the global map competing with cities like London which have night bus system or Indian cities like Delhi or Mumbai which have Metro and local trains till late in the night. The fact is that BMTC operates a skeletal fleet — of about 70 to 80 buses — after 9 pm. and given that the streets are deserted, autorickshaws aren’t considered safe.
For past couple of years the BMTC had been planning to introduce night buses in Bangalore, but we haven’t seen any night bus! However, the government has extended the night life in the city to 1 am temporarily. Hotels and bars being open till 1 am means there will be employees of bars, police constables, etc who might want to use the public transport to get home. But does the government see this problem? Last week, the BMTC MD Anjum Pervez was quoted in a newspaper as saying that there is no need for night buses in Bangalore.
I request every citizen to join this fight for the right to good public transport and stop harassment from private cabs and autos. The question is not whether you have a bike or a car, it is your right to demand for a good system of transport.
Click here to sign a petition by Shashank Kumar.