When MTC crew become the face of arrogance

Chennai’s MTC bus service is static – a dusted up set of creaking buses built about a decade ago, hardly the system for a fast-growing metro. Its service culture is even more antiquated. The crew are often rude and mealy-mouthed, and commuters are glad to simply get a ride, never complaining.

Not always smooth - inside a deluxe bus of the Chennai MTC
Not always smooth – inside a deluxe bus of the Chennai MTC

As the bus service shrinks in real terms, people are migrating to two-wheelers and cars.

So it was no surprise for me that the conductor of a route 17 M Deluxe to Iyyappanthangal on Saturday night acted with customary haughtiness, when I requested that he stop at 5 lights in Rangarajapuram, which is my regular commute point.

“No. This bus does not stop there. You asked for Liberty, you get off there,” he said, puffed up with arrogance.

I tried to reason with him, telling him that all buses stop there, [they are doing so on their rerouting via Rangarajapuram due to ongoing civil works on the Kodambakkam bridge] and people board the buses there too.

He would have none of it, and flatly refused.

Surly bus crews get me all worked up, and this man was unusually rude. I decided to show him some commuter power.

I dialled the MTC complaints number from my mobile phone, and surprisingly, although it was 10.30 p.m, someone answered. I explained the circumstances to the complaints cell, and the operator asked if I was in the bus.

“Yes,” I told him.

“Please give the phone to the conductor,” the MTC official said, and I did. In the next 30 seconds, the conductor was convinced that he had better do something positive. He returned the phone, with a flat statement, “He asked me to stop for you.”

“Ok. Do that.” I said.

The man was smarting from the defeat, and he sat in his seat, swearing, and cursing his job. “What a job this is!” he said.

“Ask the guy on the street without a job and he will tell you,” I replied loudly. “I am done with my service, Sir,” he declared scornfully.

In about ten minutes, the bus had reached 5 lights. The whistle was blown and the doors opened. “Nanri, thanks” I said. The man raised his hand weakly in acknowledgement, and I was out of the bus.

If MTC conductors are boorish, who is responsible? Is it the invisible top management of the monopoly bus service, their political masters, the small minority of unruly commuters or all of the above?

With little investment in physical infrastructure in the form of better buses, bus stands, ticketing and information systems, and in training and behaviour improvement, Chennai MTC is an unattractive option, unlikely to shift people away from their own personal modes of mobility. And the State government is treating the bus commuter as a lesser citizen.



One thought on “When MTC crew become the face of arrogance

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  1. Sir. I understand your frustration. Some bus drivers and conductors are genuinely rude. No doubt. But I think most of them I think are genuinely stressed out. I work in a multi national software company. Almost all of them as you would know work in air conditioned environment. Typical 9 to 6 job… Hardly 10% of the software industry population are really stressed out due to their work pressure. Most people are stressed out because their peer got a promotion, the peer went onsite, all that nonsense… Anyways. back to the point. Despite the nice working conditions, there are a whole bunch of morons working, very rude, no work ethics, etc. These guys in the bus are under terrible physical working conditions. Well one might ask, that they chose to do it… So might as well enjoy what they are doing because they chose that. Agreed. But still have to consider the fact they are a lot more stressed. Finally what can we do – Ofcourse we know the political course is not going to do anything soon. I usually try to chat with the conductors whenever possible (on a crowded bus its tough) but otherwise. Say a friendly hello. “Epidi irrukeenga sir…” As crazy as that friendly greet sounds, it just opens the friendly part of them… they talk to us, we talk to them. I have several drivers and conductors on the regular route I use to travel… Kindly note I am no way justifying what that person did. I am just saying we could sometimes try to do our bit to loosen things up for them.

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