It’s easy to antagonise the footboard traveller. But these young users of public transportation have bigger things on their mind.
It’s always interesting to read school students’ responses to our editorials. Their skepticism alarms, their precociousness amuses, their knowledge surprises and their creativity impresses. But once in a while a topic comes along that they seem affected by on a much more direct level – like last week’s topic, about footboard travel on public buses.
At the end of every editorial we run, we ask our readers (which comprise school children) a related question. This time we asked them what problems they face while using the public buses in their city. The responses were quite concerning. Here are some of the issues brought up:
1. Multi-purpose buses
A student from Hyderabad wrote about how the buses in his city often double up as cargo vehicles.
“In these vehicles, the first two seats just behind the driver’s will be occupied by mail bags, newspaper bundles, sacks of vegetables, household items like TV sets and sometimes with one to two spare tyres.”
As a result, passengers are forced to remain standing, and this is an added reason to travel on footboards, said this 8th grade student.
2. Not sleeper-friendly
While this issue may sound not-as-serious, it’s still very valid! For long-distance commuters especially, a quick power nap in the bus can do wonders. When you need to travel hours to reach your school or college, naps in the bus can go a long way in mitigating fatigue. This is what has struck this tenth grader’s (from Karur, Tamil Nadu) nerve.
“People travelling long distances are unable to sleep because of the dancing windows that disturb them. The sound from the windows is jarring. When your sleep gets disturbed you get mentally and physically disturbed. Moreover, the window knobs which keep the window in place rarely last. And in case it does last, then its sharp edges poke the heads of the dozing-off passengers.”
I’m sure the last point about the window stoppers will sound familiar to frequent users of Chennai’s MTC service, like me. In fact, I may have a permanent dent on my forehead as evidence of this inconvenience.
3. No spare tyres
The same student from Karur, TN also brought up the issue of frequent punctures. Don’t buses carry spare tyres, he wants to know. Wouldn’t this relieve passengers of the problem of shifting buses each time there is a tyre-related mishap, especially on relatively deserted roads?
4. Free pass, so what?
A tenth grader from Gudalur, a town in the Nilgiris, stated her grievances which highlighted some serious flaws in the system.
“The government has issued us bus passes. But since we travel unpaid, we are asked to stand and not allowed to sit and travel.”
She also complained that buses in her locality were largely long-distance buses, and because of this, conductors do not let them get inside these buses (presumably to avoid making more stops).
“Due to such problems, we reach home very late which is really unsafe.”
It is quite evident that the prevalent issues in public transport are not going to disappear so easily. It’s not enough or even fair to give schools the right to expel students caught footboard travelling. Headmasters themselves don’t seem very enthusiastic about this recent ruling. Something more long term than fixing doors needs to be done to encourage more responsible public travel.