For bus conductor N. Perumalsami, who works for the State Transport Undertaking, every day is a challenge. “Issuing coins in the denomination of one and two rupees is a daunting task that could end up in altercations with passengers,” he says.

The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (Madurai Region) comprises Madurai, Virudhunagar and Dindigul districts. On an average, the daily collection from tickets is around Rs 2.20 crore from the three towns, while the receipts from Madurai alone are between Rs. 90 lakh and Rs. 1.10 crore. There are 13 depots in Madurai city and the collection is deposited twice a day by the conductors working in shifts, official sources in the Commercial Wing of the TNSTC said.

Until five years ago, the coin circulation was sufficient and there was no difficulty. However, for various reasons, there is a coin shortage now. For example, though unconfirmed, the sources said that one rupee coins are used to make shaving blades….From a single coin, three blades can be produced for shaving razors. Hence, there is a shortfall in the circulation as businessmen make higher profits from the currency.

Arumugam, a city bus conductor, told ‘The Hindu,’ “In my 28-year service, the problems faced in recent years are more complex and sometimes frightening. Many youngsters literally threaten me when I ask for exact change. There is unpleasantness as some commuters simply don’t understand that I don’t have change to give them. Many times, we (conductors) have received memos from the squad on the charge of “passenger travelled, ticket not issued,” he said.

Toll plaza

Staff at the four-lane toll plazas located on the National Highways also tell a grim tale. According to the staff at the user fee toll collection booth in Chittampatti, despite displaying boards requesting motorists to tender exact change, they hand currency of the order of Rs. 100 or Rs. 500 or even Rs. 1000 for a ticket of Rs. 85. When we ask for a five-rupee coin or note, a clash ensues between the cashier and the driver. “Unlike supermarkets and chain stores, we don’t have the facility of issuing chocolates,” they said and added that the authorities should find solutions soon.

An omni-bus driver Rajan said, the NHAI should consider introducing prepaid cards to motorists. “In Chennai, for Rs. 700, a vehicle can pass through 60 times.”

This, in a way, may help solve the problem of coin shortage, he suggests.

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