Karnataka: Private bus operators rule the roost as strike drags on

BENGALURU: The indefinite transport strike in the state will enter its 11th day on Saturday. Bang in the midst of a pandemic, the prolonged agitation is causing severe hardships to commuters, who are being forced to rely on private operators for emergency travel.
The government and the striking employees have been unable to find common ground to tide over the crisis.

While there are complaints galore against private operators of poor frequency and for carrying excess passengers or charging extra, transport department officials are turning a blind eye to violations. Officials fear private operators might not run any buses if action is initiated against them. Many poor patients travelling from other districts to Bengaluru are finding it difficult to visit hospitals due to lack of buses operated by STUs.
Despite several arm-twisting tactics used by the STUs against protesting employees, only 30% of buses under them were operational till Friday.
Officials said the government may take harsh steps after the bypolls end on Saturday. The delay in ending the strike is being seen as a loss of face for deputy CM and transport minister Laxman Savadi. Public resentment is growing against the government for not breaking the impasse.
Savadi has been releasing statements urging workers to join work, but many activists say there have been no sincere efforts to resolve the issue.
Many working class people, mainly street vendors, domestic workers, pourakarmikas, security staff, construction workers and garment workers rely on buses as they cannot afford private vehicles. Now they are being forced to travel in private buses, shared autorickshaws and Tempo travellers due to the strike. Some are even walking or cycling several kilometres.
Geeta Menon of Domestic Workers’ Rights Union, said: “Salaries and jobs of domestic workers have already been affected due to the pandemic. Now, many are forced to pay double for transportation.”
Vinay Sreenivasa of Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, said: “It’s been more than 10 days and the CM and transport minister have been busy campaigning for the bypolls. Transport is a basic right. Livelihoods of many people have been affected due to this strike.”
Are cartels controlling bus terminals?
With limited number of STU buses on the road, Kempegowda bus station (BMTC) and Majestic bus stand (KSRTC) near Gandhinagar seem to be dominated by private players now. TOI on Friday found that some cartels decide which buses should enter the terminals and pick up passengers. They also threaten BMTC and KSRTC crew for picking up passengers, besides restricting other private buses. “I’ve never seen Majestic like this. They are dictating terms and conditions. This has to end,” said Rajesh P, a passenger.

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