Many passengers bore the brunt of the flash strike called by the private express bus drivers and conductors here on Monday to protest against an assault on three bus drivers and a passenger at Udyavara the previous night.
Private bus service on the Kundapur-Udupi-Mangalore route has become the lifeline of public transport in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. In fact a private bus leaves Udupi every 30 seconds towards Mangalore during peak hours. During the off-peak hours, the frequency of private buses to Mangalore varies from a minute to three minutes or more.
Vittal, who works as assistant manager at SCDCC Bank, said that he was waiting for over an hour from 8.30 a.m. to catch a bus to Mangalore. I come from Shankarnayana village and then catch a bus from Udupi to Surathkal. “Now it is too late for me. I am thinking of going and reporting at our branch here in Udupi. Such flash strikes create lot problems for daily office-goers like me,” he said.
Purshotham Acharya, an ex-serviceman, said that he and his wife had come from Kundapur. They wanted to catch a bus to Mangalore. “If there is a strike, it should be announced well in advance so that people can make alternative arrangements. When a strike is called suddenly, a lot of people are affected,” he said.
Akshatha, an employee of Karnataka Bank, said that she had been waiting for 50 minutes to catch a bus to go to Padubidri. She worked at the Padubidri branch of her bank. “This strike has created a lot of problem. I think, I may have to avail a leave today”, she said.
Another passenger said that many office-goers from Udupi to Mangalore had daily-passes. If they used the KSRTC Volvo service, they had to pay more than double the fare that they were paying on the private buses.
But on the other side, the drivers and conductors of the private express buses also used the strike to pour out their grievances against the public, owners of private buses and the police.
Harish, a bus driver, said that the buses had to reach from Udupi to Mangalore in 1 hour and 35 minutes. There was no alternative for the bus drivers but to drive at 70 kilometres per hour to reach in time.
“If we are late, there is another private bus behind us. In addition, we have to deal with several signal lights in Mangalore and Udupi. The people, the owners and the time-keepers do not understand our problem”, he said.
Hyder, another bus driver, said that people blamed the private buses irrespective of the fact whether they drove fast or slow.
A bus conductor said that there was no job security for the drivers and conductors of the private buses. The bus owners were not interested in their welfare, he said.