By Vinay Sreenivasa
Bangalore is a city where 48 lakh out of a total population of 95 lakh people use the bus. Bus-users in Bangalore have a number of issues – high fares, rampant sexual harassment of women in buses, absence of bus shelters in most stops and major terminals, poor connectivity to interior areas and outskirts etc. However there was no forum for bus-users.
In June 2013, Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) hiked bus fares by 16%, the second such hike in 9 months. The hike effectively pushed fares by more than 40% compared to September 2012. Civil society groups met in response to the hike intending to launch a campaign to force the government to bring down the hike.
At this juncture, the various groups consisting of garment workers unions, street vendors groups, domestic workers unions, sex-workers unions, NGOs and CBOs working with slums decided to not just launch a campaign on the fare hike, but instead to create a forum to tackle all issues faced by bus-users. Thus the Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike was launched.
The Vedike launched a campaign to bring down the fares – with a protest outside the BMTC office, observing a Black Day on July 4th when BMTC usually celebrated bus-day and a signature campaign. The response of the public to the campaign was strong and sincere – people joined in distributing pamphlets, collecting signatures etc. In response to the campaign, the government announced a reduction in the fares but just by 1 rupee for the first stage (first two stops). While this is only a little, it is encouraging for the Forum to see a response to the campaign. The Forum is continuing the campaign to reduce the fare hike. The Forum has also decided to work on the issue of sexual harassment of women and is working to produce a fact-finding report of the same. The demands of the Forum include:
- Roll back the BMTC and KSRTC bus fare increase. BMTC bus fares must be fixed in such a way that they do not exceed 5% of the lowest minimum wages fixed by the Government of Karnataka.
- Give free passes to senior citizens, people with disability, Antyodaya card holders and school children.
- Increase the number of buses and routes to ensure the whole city is well covered.
- Mini buses must be introduced to cover interior areas and slums.
- All bus terminals must have shelters, toilets and drinking water and all bus-stops must have shelters.
- Appoint a committee with equal representation from among experts suggested by the Vedike and the BMTC on the issue of sexual harassment of women, sexual minorities and children
- Initiate an inquiry into the financial operations of BMTC and an operational review of BMTC. Publish the findings of this review and the inquiry.
- No more Traffic and Transit Management Centres to be constructed and no new Volvos to be purchased without prior public consent.
- Provide funds to BMTC so that it can provide better and affordable services. This can be done through
- Withdrawal of Motor Vehicle Tax on buses and reduced taxes on diesel
- Charging car parking fees and congestion fees and transfer the funds to BMTC
- Create a corpus for BMTC by sanctioning an amount comparable to that being spent on Bangalore MetroSet up a commuters committee at the Depot level to look into any commuters’ grievances
Announce a process of public consultation to make BMTC more people‐friendly, equitable, democratic and transparent.
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