Once again, beware of Chennai MTC checking crews – demand ticketing reform

The MTC may overload its buses beyond the RTO sanctioned limit, and you may have not bought your ticket because of the crush, but that is no excuse. The checking staff of the MTC will turn your pockets inside out and extract every paisa that they find in it.

That is what you see in this picture, where a youth is seen pleading with the checking inspector at P.Orr and Sons stop on Anna Road on Monday morning, as he riffles through his wallet checking each compartment for every paisa in it. The fine for not possessing a proper ticket on an MTC bus is Rs. 500. Many people don’t have that much cash in their pockets. But the checking inspectors make sure that everything you have is handed over. Most often, the passengers are genuine and wanted to buy a ticket, but the conductor was sitting away from where they were in the crowd, or the bus arrives at a fare stage too quickly, creating problems. This is fairly common between LIC and Simpsons/P.Orr and Sons stop.

I am not arguing here for free tripping, although there are contentious issues in the way travel is priced in Chennai (also, the ticketing issue needs a whole new approach as I argue in this piece titled "Tackling a sticky issue with technology". I am merely pointing out the double standards of the MTC, when it comes to the law – there is no fine for violating the MV Act if that is done by the Corporation. But the Act applies to the passenger, never mind that the bus is operating with illegal number of travellers.

I have witnessed this event more than once. Once, a couple from outside Chennai with an infant were caught in similar circumstances and were deprived of all their cash. (Read about that episode and see a slideshow here.) But it is unacceptable that conductors overload buses, do not issue tickets to all, and then the checking crews move in. They criminalize what is a civil matter, and sometimes get physically abusive. This has to stop. MTC is no less liable for overloading buses, violating the MV Act, and because no one penalizes the bosses, they don’t expand their fleet. Time to change all this.

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