As DMK ignores transport reform, 14-year old commits suicide

Can you board this overloaded bus and buy a ticket from the conductor standing or sitting beyond the crush? Anna Salai, opposite Secretariat, July 29.

It is unpardonable that the failure of the DMK government to introduce reform to ticketing in public transport – violating the conditions of the JNNURM and the National Urban Transport Policy – has resulted in the suicide of a 14-year old student in Chennai.

The student was apparently harassed by the ticket-checking staff of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation, for not being able to produce her pass. The humiliation of being treated by checking staff like pick-pockets has caused deep trauma to several genuine passengers in Tamil Nadu. This despicable trend has now driven a teenager to suicide.

We demand to know from the Government why the checking staff persisted with their intimidation of the frightened girl, although she identified the institution where she was studying, and that she had been issued a pass. Was it too difficult to find out from the girl’s house whether she had forgotten her pass for the day, or from the school, whether she was a student there? In any case, this is a small violation that attracts only a civic penalty. It is a grossly unwarranted use of official authority to detain a young woman and subject her to intense interrogation.

This is the age off contactless ticketing. Given the supreme arrogance and sense of superiority that India’s state governments display, why not make the mass transit systems biometric, so people don’t have to carry physical passes?

The answer to the problem of curbing ticket-less travel is not police high-handedness, but reform to the process of ticketing.

We have pointed out in the past, that checking crews of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation pounce on genuine passengers who did not have the opportunity to buy a ticket in the first place, because the bus is overloaded (beyond the legally permitted capacity) and everyone must buy the ticket on-board.

This outmoded 1960s style ticketing is in crisis, as more and more people are crowding into a bus fleet that is suffering from poor investment and hence shrinking vis-a-vis the population in real terms.

We condemn the failure of the DMK Government and its as-yet dysfunctional Transport Regulatory Authority (headed by the Transport Minister) to introduce modern ticketing systems. We demand that the UPA government suspend all disbursements of funds to the MTC until it introduces reform, starting with sale of passes for ALL buses operated as part of the fleet, including the Volvo services.

This is nothing new and Bangalore’s BMTC has already do that. The MTC should make its travel passes available widely, at all bus depots, time-keeper offices, post offices, and perhaps even with cell-phone kiosks on a commissionable basis. There is no excuse to delay this, and if incentive payments to crews from bag collections is the culprit, a management solution must be found to replace it, such as a fixed allowance that equals what is being disbursed now.

According to this report in The Hindu, the MTC travel passes are not being marketed, but are popular (that sounds like an oxymoron, though).

By driving an impressionable teenager to commit suicide, the DMK Government has covered itself in the worst possible shame.


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