They may be dejected with Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal demitting office without regularising their services, but for many of the contract bus drivers and conductors of the Delhi Transport Corporation he still remains their big hope of one day having a regular Delhi Government job.
A number of these drivers, who had gone on a four-day strike from January 27 and called it off after Mr. Kejriwal assured them of solving their problems “once and forever”, spoke to The Hindu about how their “hopes have been dashed”. “We are heart-broken as he was to decide by February 27 on “samaan kaam, samaan vetan (same work-same wage) for us. He was our last hope,” said Rakesh Kumar, a contract driver at the Millennium Bus Depot, the main venue of the protest.
The contract bus drivers and conductors posted with the 47 depots across Delhi have been crying themselves hoarse on issues ranging from poor quality of uniforms to the payment of arbitrary wages.
Though the DTC claims that all its employees are paid as per the Minimum Wages Act and some incentives, the contractual workers insist that their wages are not commensurate with the work they do. “The driver’s memo states that payment would not be made for more than 131 km per day. We should get Rs.4 per km, but often deductions are made before we are paid our dues,” said a driver, Rishi Chaudhary.
He said that on some congested routes such as 883, 443, 34 and 753 the drivers struggle to meet the minimum travel targets for the day.
Their biggest concern remains reporting for duty on time. “Because of lack of buses or duties, we are often sent back and marked absent for that day, hence don’t get paid. When we have reported for duty, why should we be marked absent,” asked Mr. Chaudhary.
Among other issues they raise are poor quality uniform and meagre bonus. “We are charged Rs.2,200 for uniforms but quality is quite poor. The shirt’s blue colour fades in just one wash and the trousers crumple like paper.”
They are yet to get their winter uniforms, they added. .
Despite Mr. Kejriwal’s inability to fulfil his promises to them, these drivers do not harbour a grudge against him. Most of them would rather “bring him back”.