VISAKHAPATNAM: Imagine standing for long hours balancing yourself in a moving bus while it negotiates bumpy roads, issuing tickets to passengers and going back and forth to tender change. You encounter passengers of all kinds and have to be on your guard. You do not want to drink water despite your thirst or the heat because that would mean taking a trip to the bathroom, an impossible task, given that there are no proper toilets to relieve yourself. That is the average day in the life of women bus conductors, a struggle against odds to make both ends meet.
With summer here, the heat increases the urge to drink water. While most of us oblige by downing a bottle of chilled juice or simply a glass of cool water, women bus conductors in Visakhapatnam shudder at the thought, as finding toilets to relieve themselves later is a challenging task, even at bus terminals, many of which do not have even a single toilet. Male bus conductors can relieve themselves in the open, but women have no other option but to simply wait no matter how long that may take. It therefore comes as no surprise that after years of service, most of these women end up in hospitals with gynaecological problems or kidney diseases.
While the lackadaisical attitude of APSRTC authorities in providing toilet facilities for women workers is appalling, the lethargy of GVMC officials in ensuring toilet facilities for women at major junctions is even more outrageous.
Some of the major bus terminals like Tagarapuvalasa, Bheemili, Arilova, RK beach, Railway station and Kommadi do not have a single toilet. Though a few bus depots have toilets, lack of maintenance make it a horrible experience to use them.
BV Lakshmi, a woman conductor said, “Many among us are above 40 and this is when health problems start. Due to long hours of standing in the moving bus we end up suffering from severe back pain. We also face gynaec problems as we avoid drinking water as there are no toilets at the terminal points.”
Even RK beach, one of the major operation points for the RTC, does not have a toilet facility. Many buses from Simhachalam, Pendurthy and other areas which connect to this tourist hub have women conductors, but no facilities for them. The plight of women conductors deployed in Tagarapuvalasa and Bheemili route is also no different.
But perhaps the worst is route no 69, operating from the Railway Station to Arilova. There are no toilets at both the starting point or at the destination.
Speaking to Express, D Rama Devi, a bus conductor said that the she usually depends on the toilet at the railway station. At Arilova, she has no option but to knock on someone’s doors near the bus stop in case she needs to use the toilet. Women conductors have taken up the issue with collectors and GVMC authorities many times in the past, but their plea continues to go unheard.