Long-distance daily home commute: Challenging but worth the trouble

Despite its hopelessly congested roads, Bengaluru still attracts lakhs of people for employment. But many of these newcomers now prefer to live outside the city limits. Reason: An escape from the traffic jams, and the realisation that the city gives them a livelihood but not exactly enough to own or rent a home here.

The despair about the traffic congestion is articulated by Rekha, a consultant with an MNC.

She says, “I have to begin very early, sometimes at 7.30 am, for fear of getting stuck in a traffic jam. My assignment might be at a place about 15 km away, but one can never predict the movement of traffic in Bengaluru. If there was rain too, I have waited inside a cab for about 4 hours, although it would be a distance of just two to three kilometres.”

Venkatesh S works for a BPO within the city but lives near Kengeri on the outskirts. He observes, “We have many people working in Bengaluru who travel even 60 km one way on a daily basis. Some live even in the rural areas of nearby districts, to avoid the high cost of living in Bengaluru city.”

The reasons are not tough to fathom. “The house rent and the cost of living in Bengaluru are too high for us to afford. In contrast, it is cheaper to use our own vehicles to travel back and forth daily. The monthly fuel expenditure will still be lesser than the additional Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 we need to shell out to stay in Bengaluru than in the outskirts. Even with public transport, a pass is enough to make things easy on our purses,” he explains.

Many workers in the unorganised sector readily agree. Mani, a mechanic, explains: “I used to live in Talli, which is my native village in Tamil Nadu, and travel about 50 km to Bengaluru for my work daily. I had to leave home at least by 7 am, but could return not before 8 pm, as the transport to my village was not good. When my wife started working as a househelp, we were forced to shift as she could not travel so far daily.”

The native place, ancestral home and profession as well as children are found to play a major role in their choice of Bengaluru for work but outside for stay. Mani’s wife Lakshmi adds, “It is not just about affording a house in the city. We could not leave our ageing parents very far from us, so we shifted to a house in Chandapur. We find it a little easier, as my parents too stay nearby and going to Bengaluru has become less strenuous from here.”

Elaborating further, Venkatesh says, “Some of our colleagues travel for two to three hours daily, till Srinivaspur in Kolar, Doddaballapur in Bengaluru Rural and sometimes even Tumakuru. One important reason is that they still have their farms there and their families are involved in agricultural activities. Their parents cannot move to Bengaluru giving up such work.”

Many prefer the peace of the village to the urban rush and pollution. “Many places such as Ramanagara, Doddaballapura and Tumakuru have pretty good transport and also enough support for everyday life. It is a healthier atmosphere to return to after the work in the city,” says Nagaraj, employee of a manufacturing firm.

But this routine requires people to leave early and return late in the night. This raises questions of safety, particularly for women.

Says Venkatesh, “Availability of transport too plays an important role as we might not get buses to travel beyond a point. The only option is to leave our workplaces early to reach home in time.”

Rekha agrees: “Of course, men far outnumber the women who travel such long distances for work daily. If we miss a bus or a train, it is a gamble with danger, after all.

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Long-distance daily home commute: Challenging but worth the trouble

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