Poor bus connectivity prevents garment workers from benefitting under Shakti Scheme

June 16, 2023 10:06 pm | Updated 10:06 pm IST - Bengaluru

A large number of women working in the garment sector waiting for BMTC buses at Muthurayanagar Cross bus stop on Mysuru Road in Bengalur.u

A large number of women working in the garment sector waiting for BMTC buses at Muthurayanagar Cross bus stop on Mysuru Road in Bengalur.u | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR

The Shakti scheme, which provides free bus rides for women, was expected to benefit over three lakh strong, mostly women, garment workforce in the city. However, an on-ground reality check reveals that the garment workers who have been depending on private transport facilities like tempos, and share autos, haven’t shifted to Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses. This is because most of the areas where garment workers live are sparsely serviced by BMTC buses. 

Vimala Shekar, a garment worker who stays near Pipeline Road in Bagalagunte in North Bengaluru, has to travel to Peenya where she works in a garment factory everyday in a tempo van paying ₹15, Ms. Vimala says the recently launched Shakti scheme will not benefit her because the area she stays in has no BMTC bus connectivity.

This is not just Ms. Vimala’s problem, as most of the garment workers stay in areas either on the outskirts of the city or in congested areas not serviced by BMTC. This has led to many of the women working in the garment sector effectively not benefitting from the scheme. Garment workers earlier had protested that BMTC bus fares were unaffordable to them. 

While it is true that the pockets where most garment workers live are serviced sparsely by BMTC, but garment workers are used to being dropped at the factory by tempo travellers. “If I want to go in a BMTC bus, I have to walk over one kilometre to catch a bus to reach Peenya, and then again I have to walk to my factory. All this wastes our time hence we depend on the tempo travellers. They take us to the factory,” Jayamma, another garment worker said. 

In Bengaluru, some garment factories provide transport services to their employees. A majority of the workers rely on tempo travellers, autos or make the commute by foot.

Mini-buses

Given that bus rides are now free, garment workers are keen to shift to BMTC buses, and are now demanding better bus connectivity to the areas they reside in. Jayaram K. R., Joint Secretary, Garments and Textiles Workers Union, said garment workers were some of the most deserving beneficiaries of the Shakti scheme, but had been kept out due to poor bus connectivity. “The only way these women can avail the benefit of the scheme is if BMTC runs mini-buses to areas they reside in,” he said. 

Workers coming from rural areas benefit

More than workers in the city, garment workers in towns and villages in Bengaluru Rural, Ramanagara and Mandya districts, have mostly been benefitting from the scheme. 

There are a good number of garment factories operating in Channapatna, Ramanagaram, Bidadi, Magadi, Kanakapura, Mandya, Maddur, Srirangapatna, Nagamangala and other parts of Mandya, and Ramanagara districts. Nearly 30,000 women, from teenagers to elderly women, from both districts are working there. They depend on KSRTC buses and they will benefit from the scheme, said Mr Jayaram.

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