Low salaries, lack of hikes leave crew of govt buses demoralized

BMTC City Karnataka Karnataka Rural Karnataka Safety Travel

They work 12 hrs; pandemic has hit BMTC hard

When you enter a state transport bus in Bengaluru, the first thing you see is a conductor trying to find his way through the crowd in the bus so he can sell tickets. He stumbles from one place to another while wiping his sweating face. This is his daily routine; it makes him tired not physically but mentally.

State transport workers have not had a hike in their salaries since 2020. This has induced stress and anxiety among bus drivers and conductors.

Shankar Gowda has given nearly two decades of his life working as a conductor. He wakes up every morning for a long day of hard labour. He thinks he doesn’t get paid enough.

“I started working for just Rs 2,000. Since 2020, there has not been any increase in our salaries. The price of everything has doubled since 2020,” he said. The struggle of managing the household with such little money causes him stress and anxiety. He feels exhausted because of excessive work.

Ravindra M, a BMTC driver,  has similar struggles. “My kids go to school and  I have a family to feed. The salary that the corporation gives is very low. I hardly get Rs 15,000 in hand a month. I can only hope our protests all yield some favourable results.”

Basawaraj, another driver, faces financial difficulties too. “We work for more than 12 hours a day. If we take the bus back to the depot even an hour early, they reduce Rs 200 from our salary. We work so hard, still don’t get the benefit of it.”

M.N. Sreehari, founder and chairman, Indian Smart City Development Organisation and retired traffic adviser, “Every person in a government job gets an increase every year, but what has happened with the BMTC is that it is in severe losses. The corporation is facing a lot of problems because of a decrease in revenue. The government should give some kind of financial help to the corporation. These workers work for so many hours a day. Their physical and mental health is of utmost importance. Lack of salary hike is bound to cause mental and emotional stress and anxiety among them.”

The mental health of these workers does not get much  attention from the corporations either. “The government holds an hour of counselling once a year or quarter, but that is not enough. They go through a lot of stress. At least three to four days of therapy should be given to help them manage their stress.” he added. 

T. Madaiah, PA to BMTC’s Chief Traffic Manager, said that the corporation has been incurring of losses since the pandemic started. “The corporation is short of funds. It (pay) was supposed to be increased in 2020, but heavy losses have delayed it. The corporation will be looking at it.”

In 2021,  Bangalore Mirror reported that the BMTC and KSRTC had no money to pay the salaries of employees due to the pandemic. The workers protested recently against the government demanding a pay rise. According to a report in The New Indian Express, 100 BMTC employees who were suspended for protesting were reinstated. But the union maintained that more than 600 BMTC drivers had not been reinstated. 

According to a report in The Hindu , the reinstated employees have to follow some conditions. They will not get any promotions and forgo all increments and benefits.

tina.f@iijnm.org

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