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It is a hard life for these on the road

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NEED KEEPS THEM TICKING: A woman bus conductor issuing tickets at Shivaji Nagar Bus Station.
NEED KEEPS THEM TICKING: A woman bus conductor issuing tickets at Shivaji Nagar Bus Station.

Afshan Yasmeen

In the absence of basic amenities such as toilets at bus-stops, life is miserable for women conductors

BANGALORE: A stressful eight-hour duty with literally no break in between. Getting pulled, pushed and elbowed in a jam-packed bus all through the day. Trying to tally the trip sheet with the day’s collections. Ending up paying a penalty for reporting for work late sometimes. If she has to take leave suddenly, she has to pay a penalty at the rate of Rs. 4 a km for the number of kilometres the route covers. (This rule is however applicable to all conductors.)

This makes up the day of Shashikala Kantharaj (name changed), a conductor on bus route number 86 (from Karnataka Housing Board colony to Kempegowda Bus Station).

For all the hard work that she does as a trainee conductor, she gets a paltry salary of around Rs. 3,000, including overtime payment. BMTC has 700 women conductors as of now.

Another woman conductor, Kirthika (name changed), got married after her selection in 2003. She worked for two years without taking any leave. When she returned to work after her maternity leave, her mother used to bring the baby to the bus station for breastfeeding.

“She was stressed out and forced to resign six months ago. In the absence of even basic amenities such as water and toilets at bus-stops, life is miserable for women conductors,” said Shamaraju K., a driver.

“The running time for every trip ranges between 25 to 40 minutes depending on the route. It is difficult to cover the distance in the stipulated time with the burgeoning city traffic. We do not even get a 10-minute break between two trips,” said another woman conductor.

“I have to wait for more than an hour if I want to go to the toilet. Because, it usually takes that much time to reach Majestic from the bus-stop from where I report for work,” she said.

It is because of these reasons that most women conductors quit months after they join work. “They would have joined the BMTC with hopes of being government servants and supporting their families. But their dreams are shattered within a month after they realise how difficult it is for them,” a man conductor on bus route number 223 (B) (Shivajinagar to Malathahalli) said.

He explained how women conductors have to spend the night in the bus on his route. “The 9.15 p.m. trip reaches Malathahalli from Shivajinagar at 10.45 p.m. The next trip is at 5 am and there is no way a woman can get back home and report again for the 5 a.m. trip unless she has a house in the area,” he said. “But as the routes are changed on a rotation basis, these women conductors cannot take houses on rent nearer to their workplaces.”

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