‘Driving on city roads is taking a toll on our health’

July 11, 2017 12:51 am | Updated 12:53 am IST - Bengaluru

“Driving in such heavy traffic in the city during the day is stressful. It takes a toll on our health,” said Raju, a driver on the busy ‘335’ route in the city.

“There are so many of us who want to shift out of Bengaluru and would gladly take up jobs in cities closer to our home towns as that means less stress and having more time for family,” he said.

Mr. Raju is among the 10,000-odd BMTC employees who have sought a transfer from the city in the inter-corporation transfer request window that was open till Sunday. Though they will see their salary shrink a bit as their house rent allowance will come down, they are hopeful of leading a better life closer to home.

However, as an unprecedented number of employees working as drivers, conductors and other Grade 2 and 4 staff with the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation have applied for transfer, they are keeping their fingers crossed in the hope that their request for a transfer under the one-time scheme announced by the government will be approved.

A total of 10,217 applications have been filed from BMTC employees, while 5,740 applications have come from Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) employees. In comparison, the number of transfer requests from the North-Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation and the North-Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation are 1,369 and 1,652, respectively.

For many, this would mean a less stressful life closer to their families and without any of the problems associated with living and working in a city that has seen a meteoric rise in vehicle numbers. Drivers especially complain of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic that can be unnerving for them because of the size of the vehicle.

“I took up a job with the BMTC in 2006 as inter-corporation transfers were not a major issue back then. But within a few years, transfers stopped and we could no longer apply. Over the past 11 years, I have tried several times to return to my home town or any nearby depot. This time around, I am hopeful that my request will be heard,” said a driver.

In fact, the stress levels are so high that in 2015, a large group of BMTC employees protested outside the BMTC office demanding that they be relieved from duty. Citing long working hours, cases being filed against them for small mistakes, and unrealistic targets, the employees resigned in order to apply for jobs in the other road transport corporations.

While the situation has improved in the past two years according to the KSRTC Staff and Workers’ Union, the fact remains that the big city life is now a little jaded for transport utility staff.

“BMTC employees get around 20% additional HRA, and the salary is generally better in the city. What most of the drivers and conductors have to realize is that working conditions are better in Bengaluru as the travel distances are short. If they move to smaller depots, they will be covering longer distances on roads that are not very good. But this has not deterred the applicants as there is a strong urge among them to return back to their home towns,” said Rajagopal, joint secretary of the KSRTC Staff and Workers’ Federation.

Things are better now: Officials

While there have been several allegations of staff members of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) being forced to work under stressful conditions in the past, officials say conditions have improved in recent years.

“We take good care of our employees. Otherwise, it would not be possible to operate smoothly. Most of the transfer applicants have family issues or health problems in their family and need to be close to their home towns,” said Anjum Parvez, managing director, BMTC.

According to officials, after the introduction of the Intelligent Transport System (ITS), there have been several changes to how work is allotted to drivers, ensuring that the amount of stress that comes with long and unreasonable working hours is mitigated. The ITS system also helps in tracking the movement of buses and the driving patterns of drivers.

“Leaves are handled with a kiosk-based system. The ITS also helps us in monitoring buses and surrounding traffic conditions, in route rationalisation, and other fine-tuning, which have helped us bring down the number of complaints. In addition, we regularly hold health camps, refresher courses and counselling sessions for our staff,” a senior BMTC official said.

The BMTC also organises counselling sessions for drivers involved in accidents. They also receive counselling from senior officials, including the top management.

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