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Crew indiscipline causing hardship to passengers

By K.T. Sangameswaran

Lack of adequate bus services in the city forces passengers to travel on footboard. A scene on Waltax Road in Chennai. — Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

CHENNAI, SEPT. 17. At a time when commuters seek increased bus services and complain about erratic operations and crew behaviour, 460 buses of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) did not run on Thursday.

The result: important bus stops were crowded and several commuters were forced to take autorickshaws.

The Corporation officials said there was "no special reason except largescale absenteeism", adding to the already existing shortage of crew.

The commuters' problems could well be gauged with about 40 buses not being operated from Perambur depot alone.

According to a senior official, the number of services, which were not run on Thursday, was perhaps the highest in the last few days.

The "previous best" was August 31, the payday for workers. That day commuters experienced a similar ordeal as 410 vehicles were off the road.

Officials say the corporation operates about 2,550 vehicles from 25 depots, out of its total fleet of 2,770. On some days, such as payday, there is a heavy absenteeism as the crew go away without reporting for duty after collecting the salary. Many vacancies

However, the officials concede that indiscipline among the bus crew and lack of adequate supervision is causing hardship to commuters.

"The crew members are just not afraid of action that may be taken against them for indiscipline". Many field officers too do not effectively supervise, except during "mass checking" on specified dates. And those are only occasions such as drives against ticketless travel that too conducted only for augmenting revenue.

Officers say there are many vacancies at this level and the existing number is overworked.

Also, officers seldom take up other duties such as checking bus timings or whether the buses are maintained properly and conductors move out of their seats for issuing tickets.

Commuters say that even at important bus stops, officials are not to be seen during peak hours.

They also complain that buses skip stops without halting, particularly when there is "bunching" (buses on the same route coming one behind another) and "racing" of vehicles. But the management expects the public to pass on information regarding crew indiscipline, rather than ask its field officers to do the job. Such is the indiscipline, that a conductor attached to the Adyar depot daringly refused to turn up at the corporation headquarters a couple of months ago when he summoned by a General Manager to enquire into an act of indiscipline.

The conductor had told officials to give the order "in writing", officials bemoan.

Stringent action

However, a senior official, when contacted, said the MTC did take stringent action against the crew for absenteeism and indiscipline.

Frequent absentees suffer wage cuts or increment stoppage.

Officers are repeatedly instructed to note down violations by crew and pass it on to the headquarters for necessary action.

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