THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: B Ajimon collapsed one fine morning while on duty. The bus he was driving hit electric posts on the road. By sheer luck, none of the passengers were hurt in the accident that happened the other day.A bus driver attached to the Aluva KSRTC depot, his is not a lone case, said KSRTC Welfare Association general secretary V Haridas.
“Aji is otherwise a healthy man in his late thirties. The continuous duty during hot weather is taking a toll on many of us,” he said.Already, drivers have complained about fatigue, sun burn and skin rashes. But they complain nobody is listening. As the state is bracing up for a harsh summer, the Labour Commissionerate has re-scheduled working hours. According to them, exposure to sunlight between 12 noon and 3 pm should be avoided. But KSRTC drivers have no option even though they are exposed to sunlight while on duty. The harsh weather has worsened the temperature inside driver’s cabin. While the drivers have endured many summers, this year their life has become difficult due to a change in the duty pattern.
“The single duty pattern requires the drivers to be working on two or more continuous days. Earlier, they used to take a break after an exhausting trip,” said Jude Joseph, a Vehicle Supervisor, who assigns duty to drivers.Rajeev, name changed, drives an ordinary service from East Fort to Pothencode. On many days, the service would not meet the daily target of R12,000 required for earning a double duty. So he has no other option but to appear the next day. It would look like a prudent managerial decision for a stage carrier struggling to reduce the losses. A double duty for 13 hours could have allowed Rajeev to take rest the next day.
“Every day, I have to bear the heat emanating from the cabin. Bonnet is always exposed due to a lack of maintenance. The summer has worsened the condition and I think there could be incidents of drivers collapsing while on the run,” he said.
According to Haridas, the drivers drink very little water. The water they carry in plastic bottles nearly boils in the cabin heat. “The new duty pattern gives a mere half an hour of rest. If there is a traffic block, we don’t get enough time for food and water,” said Haridas. He said drivers’ demand to conduct a medical camp was not heeded by the management.
The KSRTC management decided to implement the single duty pattern uniformly after the employees complained about selective implementation. “The duty pattern is in compliance with the Motor Vehicles Act. The bus services in states which have much adverse weather conditions than here are functioning well,” said a senior KSRTC officer.