Fare hike, fleecing autorickshaws leave them in the lurch
Around 11 a.m. on Monday, 65-year-old K. Krishnaveni, a flower vendor, waited at Mylapore to board a bus to Tambaram to meet her daughter. The scorching heat tempted her to hop into an air-conditioned Volvo bus that came by, but considering the fare, she decided to wait and board an ordinary bus.
It has been over a year since Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, in her poll promises, assured that her government would provide free bus passes to the elderly. But sources allege that even a government order has not been passed in this regard.
After the recent increase in bus fare, many senior citizens in the state, who either depend on their children's income or a meagre pension, have been left in the lurch. “My husband passed away five years ago and I earn my livelihood selling flowers. Once a week, I travel to meet my daughter who is pregnant. I spend nearly Rs 200 on every visit,” she said.
Captain Dr. Singaraja, chairman of Senior Citizens Bureau, said elders are often given a raw deal. “We have been asking for a 50 per cent concession or at least 30 per cent, which is on a par with railways. Places like Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka have provided concessions to senior citizens using public transport. It is a sign of respect shown towards elders,” he said.
Similar was the opinion of J. Kesavan, a resident of Neelankarai. “There are no senior citizen-friendly pedestrian walkways in the city. Also, it is not possible for us to commute by autorickshaws frequently as we will end up as paupers. The government should take a survey and identify the number of beneficiaries and distribute free bus passes,” he said.
Apart from the fare problem, senior citizens say seating facilities in MTC buses are poor. “There are four seats reserved for elders but they are either inaccessible or occupied by others. MTC should allocate a place for us near the driver's seat and also colour code it so that commuters can easily identify the reserved space,” said Mr. Singaraja.
Officials in the transport department said no order had been passed as yet, but steps would be taken to implement the proposal at the earliest.