The after-hours route

The after-hours route

A large section of the City’s commuters remain scathingly critical of our bus services — but help, it seems, is coming from rather unlikely quarters.

That’s the good news; the bad, however, is that this is strictly illegal.  Several bus drivers, hired by schools and colleges to ferry their students to the institutions and back, have started to take their responsibilities beyond their pre-determined routes.
Company buses aren’t far behind; the drivers and conductors make covert after-hour rounds, picking up commuters on crowded roads and charging fares which are approximately similar to those fixed by the BMTC.

The RTO is aware of this issue, but unfortunately it isn’t that easy to fix. The crux of the problem is that on the bus-starved roads of Bangalore, commuters always welcome additional options; and plying after-hours suits the drivers and conductors, since they can make a sizeable amount of money that way.

G Rajini, from the RTO Central, explains, “It’s obviously not legal. These drivers are only supposed to ferry students or employees, not use the bus for other purposes. We have a checking squad to keep an eye on them, which is active in areas near offices and schools. When we come across such incidents, we issue fines.”

The fine, she adds, varies depending on the number of people in the vehicle.  “We fine a certain amount per person. Of course, only the drivers and owners of the bus are fined, not the people,” she states.

One would assume that the establishments which hire these drivers would take more initiative to ensure illegal routes aren’t being plied — after all, the cost of fuelling these cover rounds comes directly from their pockets. But Abdul Hameed, the administrator of HKBK College of Engineering, reflects that this might not always be easy.

“We do have a college bus service of course, and we make it a point to monitor
the drivers’ movement and ensure they follow a certain timing. Besides this, we
also make sure there is another representative from the college in the bus while it
is on the road. We ensure that the after the rounds are completed, the buses are parked inside the college premises.”

This, it would seem, makes all the difference. As Hameed adds, “The problem actually arises when the parking facilities for the buses are outside the institution’s premises, because then one has no control over when the drivers return the vehicles. This is why we insisted on having the buses parked inside the college.”

Several commuters do perceive these buses as a blessing at the end of a busy day. But Meiraba Pebum, a professional, points out that they do come attached with an element of risk.  “I’ve noticed many of these buses travelling towards Electronics City — probably, the maximum number group at the Banashankari Bus Stop. Many of these vehicles are hired by companies in Electronics City and after dropping off the employees, are returning empty. I suppose drivers feel they can make a quick buck out of transporting commuters,” he reasons.

He’s quick to add, though, that the temptation to use one of these buses has so far not struck him.

“Personally, I would advise people not to. It’s much safer to use a regular bus route. I haven’t travelled by one of these vehicles so far, and I don’t think I would in the future,” he states.

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