Almost 50 per cent of the Maharashtra State Road TransportCorporation (MSRTC) bus trips from various bus stands would have to be cancelled if drivers, who at present are chipping in for the existing shortage of 550 drivers, refuse to work overtime.
The drivers complained that nothing has changed even after the Santosh Mane incident, which occurred last year. Some of them said that long working hours combined with poor working conditions, inadequate salary and manpower crunch is making drivers’ life stressful.
Bus driver Santosh Mane went berserk behind the wheel of an ST bus on January 24, 2012, ramming the bus into vehicles in his way. While nine people lost their lives in the mishap, 27 sustained injuries that ranged from grievous to minor.
While the actual working hours for drivers and conductors is only eight, the existing staffers are forced to put in 12 hours a day each due to the staff crunch. One of the drivers said, “Our official work time is eight hours, but on several occasions, due to unavailability of buses or traffic jams, we end up working for 10 to 12 hours for which we don’t get overtime. Ideally, any amount of work done after the official eight-hour shift should be considered as overtime. But if any driver or conductor is doing overtime, its gets counted only after 12 hours. And even if we complete our duty within the designated eight-hour shift, we have to wait for additional four hours following which overtime starts,”
One of the conductors added that a junior driver gets about Rs 5,000 a month and the overtime is also nominal. “In the last one year, the MSRTC renovated restroom and toilets but none of them have been properly maintained. The maintenance work was has been allotted to a private contractor, and the contractor doesn’t seem to be doing his job properly. Many a times we have complained, but no action was taken. Lady conductors suffer a lot due to filthy toilets and restrooms,” a lady conductor said.
Dilip Parab, secretary of ST workers union for Pune division, said, “We require additional 550 drivers to conduct regular operations. The process of recruitment is still on. Recently, the MSRTC conducted an exam for recruitment and shortlisted 228 drivers, of which several will be rejected after a medical test. Considering summer vacation is round the corner, recruitment of 550 drivers should be done as soon as possible. During festivals like Diwali and Christmas, the existing staff ends up work for over 16 hours a day.”
Commenting on the issue, Swargate bus depot Manager Vijay Divate said, “After the Mane incident, we have been taking several precautionary measures. Psychiatrists conduct counselling session of drivers every Sunday. We have also been holding medical camps for staffers and treating those suffering from blood pressure issues and hypertension.” Divate added that the number of security guards was also increased from five to 13 and a strict vigil was kept on submission of ignition keys for the buses.