A BMTC conductor who doesn’t have change is a victim of BMTC too!

After being told to get off a BMTC bus only because she did not tender exact change, a citizen explores the reasons for the repeated scuffles between passengers and conductors.

If you are an average person travelling in Bangalore, whichever mode of transport you opt for, can be a daunting task. If you choose to travel by your own personal vehicle, haphazard traffic and the moon-craters called pot-holes only make sure your stress levels rise meteorically.

Recently, the menace of auto-drivers over-charging, arguing and misbehaving with passengers has been highlighted by many leading papers, citizen forums and on social-media. This has led to various endeavours to curb the problem such as the setting up of help-lines to report auto-drivers, Bangalore Traffic Police conducting an auto-raid in July and the Peace Auto initiative which is supported by the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan. However, today catching an auto driver who agrees to take you to your required destination without trying to ask for “only ten rupees extra” is still a rarity.

Then, there are some who choose to take the public transport-the BMTC. My work place is quite far away from my house and luckily after I take two buses, I am able to reach my workplace. And although, I do find the BMTC convenient, I still am scared every morning of being yelled or abused at every time I step in to a bus because of an incident that occurred a few months back.

The incident

I was running late for work one morning, when I realised that I didn’t have any money in my wallet, so I ran into an ATM and withdrew thousand rupees. The ATM machine, handed me two five hundred rupee notes. I boarded the bus, and gave the note to the driver, who told me that he didn’t have change and I needed to get off the bus. I refused. He started threatening me saying that he would take me to KR Puram and “deal with me”. The bus driver stopped the bus and said he wouldn’t continue till I got down, but I still refused. The other passengers started abusing me, saying I was delaying everyone and begged me to get off.  Finally an older lady paid my ticket for me and the bus driver continued. I was a bit shocked that this has happened. I didn’t see any signs saying that one needed to tender exact change on the buses, or that you could get thrown off for not having change.

Dysfunctional complaint system

Very upset by this incident, as soon as I got off the bus, I decided to call the BMTC help line and filed a complaint. The call centre gave me a number and told me that they would get back to me. A week went by, and I didn’t hear from them, so I called the helpline number again, to be told that the complaint had been handed over to the depot manager and I should call there. I called him, but he said he had no idea about the complaint. This back and forth between the call centre and depot manager occurred for about two weeks, after which I got sick and tired of it and started looking for citizen forums.

Let’s talk about Transport

I found “Let’s Talk about Transport”, an online platform on Facebook which allowed citizens to complain about transport in Bangalore. I sent a message to the admin, Mr. Sridhar of BPAC, who immediately got back to me and asked me to call an advisor to the BMTC. After a month of making a lot of calls and sending emails, I finally got an appointment with the BMTC. The conductor in charge was called, and was yelled as for the bit by the head of complaints. I was momentarily satisfied, but I knew that there would be many more conductors in many more buses to face.

Increasing violence in buses?

Research on the issue, showed me violence and arguments on buses was a very common. The BMTC official complaint page had comment after comment on how passengers were ill-treated for not having change; some were thrown out and others were verbally abused. More extreme cases recently have been a techie put in jail after she physically assaulted the bus conductor (leading to him being deaf in one ear) or a bus rerouted to the police station over two rupees. So who is to blame? Is the onus on the passengers, to always have exact change, or on the conductor to provide change?

The conductor’s story

After some investigation, I find out that the reason that conductors are always reluctant to part with change is because the BMTC does not provide them with change. Every day, officially stated as “due to accounting purposes”, conductors are sent for service in the morning, with no small denominations in their hands. They complain that they need to make their own provisions. I realised then, that there was no use being angry at bus conductors, who were equally a victim of BMTC. This was a nightmarish situation for all involved, and a solution needs to be implemented as soon as possible,

As long back as 2001, BMTC have been talking about change vending machines, “ticketless travel” and smart cards. However nothing has come to effect, and the passenger-conductor struggle continues to prevail. It is high-time that BMTC get serious, and introduce a mechanism for both passengers and conductors have access to change disbursal. Small steps such as keeping slot machines at bus depots, could go a long way in ending the increasing violence in the BMT buses. Till then, I guess I have to mentally prepare myself for combat mode, before I enter a bus. 

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  1. Ajay Shankar A.N says:

    Where have all the electronic ticket printing machines gone ? Rmeember when the last govt was there how they had become popular? But where are they now?

    Suddenly I see a surge in manual tickets, a paper piece on which number and price is printed. But no guarantee that u r buying a authenticated ticked? They may be a fake ticket also..

  2. Ramachandran V says:

    If the cost of establishing “change vending machines” or empowering all conductors with a smart card reader to debit balance from a smart card seems a huge investment to overcome this problem; a simpler solution would also be that BMTC can start printing “BMTCmoney” similar to ticket. This “BMTCmoney” can be having denominations of Re.1, Rs.2, Rs.5. This “BMTCmoney” can also be given in lieu of change which shall also be accepted later by any conductors in par with money. This should be a simpler system to roll-out and also “accounting purposes” will not be impacted as conductors can get these “BMTCmoney” in bulk from the Depot managers and it is easier to tally the account at the end of the day as well.

  3. skeptic says:

    BMTCmoney will be easy to fake. Sorry, not a solution. I can tell you that this is an artificial problem that can be easily solved. BMTC is spending a lot of money in buying Volvos and hybrid buses and other wasteful expenditure, so they can make provision for swiping smart cards, but the problem is that they dont want to do this because (guessing) they cannot pilfer money in such a system. Until they figure out how they can beat the system they will not implement it. Take Volvos, for example, BMTC continues to buy them so that people at the top are able to pocket kickbacks. Also, there is a directive from the overlords to keep public transport ineffective to keep the machinery of the oil companies and automobile companies running to fund the system. Where do you think money to fund ISIS comes from – your petrol money!

  4. skeptic says:

    Let me explain about the “artificial problem” part – Check out public transport in other cities – conductors do make change. Yes, sometimes there is a problem, but the consistency with which BMTC conductors cheat you of change is rather high. The way BMTC prices it tickets shows that it has been done to collect the excess money by not returning change and the spoils are shared by all. My solution, kick out all the employees of BMTC and hire some honest people not so intent on serving the ISIS.

  5. Uday says:

    I disagree with this article. I am regular user of BMTC for 10 years (ever since I moved to Bangalore). I often find people handing a Rs. 500 note for a ticket of Rs. 10. The conductor is not a change-making machine. He is a human and can’t produce change out of thin air.

    I noticed that the conductors try and oblige most of the time. But, sometimes they are helpless. So, trying to show them in poor light is not right.

    If people want to use public transport, they should carry necessary change. Running late etc. are not good enough excuses for not having change for a bus ticket.

    People can manage careers, life etc., but can never make sure they have change for a bus ticket. Why blame the conductor? They have a hard job and if he/she is irritated because he/she has no change, I can’t blame him/her.

    I would certainly expect them to be polite; that rudeness is definitely unacceptable. But, the travellers are no angels, I have seen how they fight with the conductors for no reason.

  6. AKS says:

    Today in a BMTC bus I too witnessed a similar incident, where a guy gave the conductor 500 rupee note and the conductor did not have change and this poor guy got down after few stops. I found him helpless and the option for him is to take the next bus and see if that conductor can oblige. I would have given him change if I had.

    I agree, that we must cooperate and carry change and I don’t always blame the conductor.

    Once while in Kerala, I travelled in a Kerala RTC at 4 AM, as it was the first trip and I expected a change commotion which is very common in BMTC. The conductor in the first trip had carried the bag full of change and the whole ticketing was hassle free.

    BMTC can do something like this and also introduce prepaid smart cards.

  7. venky bangalore says:

    Why blame Bmtc. The conductors start day 1 without spare change but at the end of the day, they sell all the coins that they getduring the day… At a premium.

    I have seen them do this at many darshini hotels and eateries.

    Have you ever seen these guys dropping Rs. 5 coins into a separate pocket.

  8. Srinivasan Gopal says:

    A situation where felt bad about the state of the conductor. Passenger climbs bus and keeps talking on mobile. The conductor ask passenger for destination. First he does not state bus stop busy talking on phone and then asks for ticket. I find the conductor says there is no change and the passenger is talking on phone. I find passenger getting irritated at this point because he cannot continue his phone call and in addition the conductor is demanding for the change. The passenger demands that balance is given immediately putting his hand over the phone. The conductor is human and would get irritated with this type of behavior.

  9. skeptic says:

    So did this article and the resultant discussion have any effect on BMTC? I am guessing not. Neither the BMTC nor any media or ‘civil society’ cares. I am sure that none of the affected can do anything about it – you will soon realize the mess you will be in if you try to improve things. But it makes good reading.

  10. Amith Subramanian Pallavoor says:

    BMTC cares little about passenger convenience. They are only worried about profits. I can empathize with Pooja on her travails with an inefficient corporation. BMTC has the highest fares in the country. The gentleman from Gadag who revolutionized inter city transport through low fares should be allowed to train BMTC officials. Despite, the high fares they are making losses. They own so much of real estate in Bangalore. I fail to understand how BMTC is making losses despite all the rental income. There has been a fall in ad revenues as well if I am not wrong.

  11. Raghu says:

    Even i faced the same issue when i lodged the complaint with BMTC call center, they are reverting us back to the respective BMTC depot managers, if they can’t resolve the issue through their call center than better to provide all depot managers number directly.

  12. Som G says:

    A handheld electronic ticket machine which gives 2 options to the conductor for printing the ticket:
    Option 1: Get gash from commuter, print the ticket
    Option 2 (the more interesting one): Swipe a pre-charged card similar the ones in Delhi Metro or Namma Metro, print the ticket

    I know it’s easy to just think about such out of the box solutions and constraints in implementing them. But considering the future of the city’s public transport, this can also lead to seamless integration of travel through BMTC and Namma Metro apart from addressing the “change” problem to quite an extent.

  13. Umesh Tharanath says:

    This Morning I was traveling from Hebbal to Marathalli EMC2 Bagmane Tech park. Conductor Lady didn’t return my change.. it is 400 Rs. I just have the ticket [number]. Whom should I contact ?

    Please advise

  14. Ramesh says:

    We love BMTC Bus services, but few conductors behavior not good, they argue with passengers speak kanada this is not correct na why because this is metropolitan city so all people(hindi, tamil, telugu, bengali, etc) wants to travel to Govt transport. one more major problem change, they never give one rupee, two rupee even 5 rupee ticket also, when passenger forcible ask ticket, he gives otherwise not give five rupees ticket. I am telling few conductors. so please involve bmtc higher authority system….

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