THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The assault on two passengers by the staff of Suresh Kallada Travels between Haripad and Bengaluru the other day by bus employees is not an isolated incident. In the wake of incident, T'Puram Express takes a look at the experiences frequent travellers in inter-state private buses.
Maya Madhavan, a professor, had shared her experience on a private bus on social media. She recalled how she had to travel on a private bus from Tamil Nadu to Thiruvananthapuram during her periods. With no other facility available, she had to relieve herself behind a parked lorry in a remote village during the night and reached home almost 12 hours late than intended.
Rugmini Dinu, a student from Puducherry was on her way back home when the bus staff decided they wouldn't stop in Puducherry. Nor did they inform the lone passenger. Rugmini woke up only to find the bus on the Chennai-Trichy Highway. When she raised the issue with the staff, they dropped her at Villupuram on the Highway citing that the bus stop was nearby. Eventually, an auto driver dropped her at the bus stop which was 25 minutes away.
When her father complained to the the company, theysettled matters with an apology.Francis Joy, a student from Kollam, has used the private service just once. However, the experience was enough to turn him off. Due to a technical error in the online booking site, his ticket from Kollam to Bengaluru was booked in the female slot. However, he considered settling the issue with the office members before boarding.
During boarding, the bus had vacant seats and he requested a lady passenger to substitute her seat with his seat to which she agreed.However, the service provider refused to cooperate and when a heated argument followed, he was denied entry into the bus. Not only was he not able to board the bus, but the money was also not refunded.
Other private bus owners feel this is another instance of the passenger- staff conflict which is a regular occurrence. "Our business requires customer satisfaction. Our staff will always be working to ensure that the passengers have a comfortable journey. However, not all passengers are cooperative. We have passengers who are drunk and high on drugs. Passengers have various mindsets and dealing with them requires restraint. In some cases, the staff might retaliate and the recent incident could be one of those," said a private bus service provider in Thiruvananthapuram
Private bus facilities stay on paper
According to passengers, many facilities cited by prominent bus ticketing platforms as their USP remains on paper. "They claim to have GPS facilities. But, except for a few major players, most of them do not have this. As a result, we are stuck on the road at midnight waiting for the bus which will be hours late," said A Mathew, a passenger. Many also allege adjustments between crew members, wherein the booked seats are changed into another bus without informing the passenger. However, the office-bearers of Kerala-Karnataka Interstate Bus Operators Association (KKISBOA) say they give importance to the welfare of passengers. "As a growing industry, our priority is passengers and their welfare. What happened at Vyttilla was very unfortunate. We have always instructed our employees to display restraint to any provocation from passengers. We are definitely looking into the matter. But, there is a limit to which the owners can do," said Manoj Padikkal, general secretary, KKISBOA. While allegations are rife that there is an unholy nexus between public transport buses and private players, the KSRTC says there is little they can do with regard to conducting inter-state services. "We have been given permits to conduct a certain number of services. We can't do anything in this regard as the decision has to come from the government level of both states. We do everything possible," said a top official with Zonal office of KSRTC in Kochi.