Ask Bangalore Municipal Transport Corporation (BMTC) drivers and conductors if they are aware that officials can penalise male passengers occupying ladies’ seats, and they are all ready to talk - though they are wary of giving out their names. Some say that they ensure that they follow the rules, and some others admit to bending them to be more practical. However, all of them claim that no woman has to stand while male passengers occupy the front seats.
The BMTC has just concluded with a bi-monthly drive it undertakes to check men from occupying seats reserved for women and ticketless travel. This was conducted from June 14 to 16. However, when this reporter, travelled on a bus from Shanthinagar to Shivajinagar on the last day of the drive, four male passengers had occupied seats on the third and fourth rows and one was seated directly behind the driver, whereas, at least, two women stood throughout.
When asked if he knew that the drive was on, the conductor brushed it aside with an, ‘Oh, they come all the time. Thankfully, they haven’t made it to our bus yet this time around.’
A driver, off duty and travelling on the same bus explained, “Many times, the bus is crowded, so even if the conductor misses out issuing one ticket, the officers catch hold of that. As it is, the salary for BMTC beginners is very low - about ` 6,000. They make sure that these marked conductors do not even get an increment for years,” he said indignantly.
“The public is not homogenous. Every person is different, and you cannot dictate to them,” said another conductor of a bus waiting at Shivajinagar.
He believes that there is no harm in men sitting on vacant front seats reserved for women, if the seats at the back are filled up. His only condition: They have to vacate the seat when women commuters board the bus. ‘Why waste a seat?’ is his policy.
The driver of the bus, however, disagreed. “People get offended when you tell them to vacate the front seats for women. They say they’ll get up to let women sit, but they don’t. And many times, there is a huge galata (noise) created when conductors make them do it.”
Even the few passengers that City Express spoke to had not noticed officials coming for checks on these three days in particular.
“I have seen officials coming to check several times, though not in the past few days,” said Sheela Mary, who uses the BMTC bus service regularly.
“In many cities, even if the seats are empty, men are not allowed to sit on ladies’ seats. In Bangalore, rules are not enforced that strictly, though I understand that this is more practical,” said Satish Ganti, a resident of Penya.
Mary Roseleela, who travels by bus about twice a week said, “I think such drives are good. Otherwise, sometimes the men don’t listen to anyone.”
The BMTC officials, when contacted, said that ‘the response for the drive has been good’, though data compiled from it seems unavailable as yet.