Act now, don’t miss the bus
The promise by the Transport Department to act against arrogant (even greedy) bus operators is a decades-long challenge facing the government. No government in has managed to bring the powerful bus lobby in line for over 30 years. This is the bitter truth. The complaint of the gutsy students from Mapusa to the People’s Paper that they are pushed out from buses, have doors slammed on their faces, and are humiliated in public by caustic remarks from bus conductors and drivers, is akin to similar complaints in the past ~ some of them older than even the buses plying on the roads.
Despite promises of action from administrations of all political hues, nothing has happened to ameliorate the lot of the hapless commuter. It is not just the misbehavior and arrogance of bus employees ~ sexual harassment is a common complaint against them. Goans have not forgotten the manner in which bus conductors drove the Saligao-based girl Lindalifa Gonsalves to her death after tormenting her many years ago.
The rise of the bus lobby was evident during the early post-liberation years, when bus owners were actually the part of the government. The support offered by the government in those days to bus owners saw their meteoric rise as a powerful lobby. Their decline commenced after the introduction of the State-run Kadamba Transport Corporation. The advent of KTC helped, to some extent, in bringing bus operators in line, but their behavior continues to be deviant. There have been promises over the decades by governments that they will address the issue ~ some even promised to conduct refresher courses in good manners for bus conductors. But largely, these grand schemes have remained on paper.
Bus conductors and drivers continue, in general, to be uncouth in their behavior and road etiquette is as alien to them today as it always was. For example, there are innumerable instances to show how rules regarding the right of way are ignored merrily by this lot on the premise that the bus is the larger vehicle; might is right, obviously. At the Pomburpa ferry point, for instance, buses block the access of motorists seeking to board the ferry. Cases abound of motorists missing ferries simply because of the care-a-damn attitude of bus drivers on this segment of the route. There are other instances where bus operators gang up in solidarity in support of acts of omission and/or commission committed by their colleagues. The manner in which they cram passengers like proverbial sardines into their tin cans and cheat passengers desirous of de-boarding earlier is well known. In truth, bus operators have been wretched in their behavior, seems to be the common consensus.
These are generalizations, we admit, but they are based on feedback and incidents over decades. Of course, there have been some instances where bus operators have been the first to rush out to help accident victims, so kudos to the good amongst them.
In the past, there were some Transport officers who were strong, honest and upright and therefore struck fear into the heart of even the most arrogant bus conductor. But they have long retired. And punitive action against erring buses operators has been slow in coming.
The department has initiated action against the bus operators who targeted the Mapusa students, and this is appreciated, but this is not a matter which can be dealt with in fits and starts. If the government of the day is really sincere about ensuring that the bus lobby mends its ways, it will have to launch a persistent and sustained campaign, including taking feedback from the main stakeholders i.e. the passengers, on the treatment meted out to them on this vital mode of public transport. Commuters cannot be treated like cattle-class citizens.