Social media is abuzz with the infectious glee and chatter of women passengers of city’s PTC buses grateful to the newly sworn-in chief minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, for the free bus ride. Once upon a time the coveted transport of middle class Madras, now the metropolitan buses mostly ply working class as we have been sighting a profusion of four wheelers and two wheelers in the city in last 10-20 years leaving no space to pedestrians. From vegetable vendor and flower seller to factory worker and house maid, women who rely on bus services are overwhelmingly from our lowest strata who cannot afford pricey modes of transport to ferry them across the quagmire of our city traffic.
PTC has been heaping monumental losses for years on row now. When was the last time we had surplus over deficit when it came to running our transport department. The present fleet of vehicles on road is in no good condition which can do with replacement or effective repair . How many Diwali eves we have had in the past when the annual festival bonus payable to the PTC staff (especially the drivers and conductors) would be held back by ruling government for want of funds, forcing the crew to blackmail both govt and public with an indefinite strike. The buses remain the lifeline of the lower middle class commuters, so the government would buckle down with no other choice, giving in to their demands. The threat had the potential to bring the city to a standstill, not to leave out the political overtones it can take.
From my school/college days, concession in bus fare has been available to students of educational institutions using the PTC services. Only concessions, not total waiver. And even this small rebate would be applicable only in regular routes/buses never in specials (and specials outnumber regulars any day).
So how will it be possible for the newly elected DMK govt to offer free rides to women passengers?
One or only possible answer: TASMAC. The government liquor chain outlets of the state will foot the bill happily by all means, unless there is a corollary to this theory.
Who are these women grinning ear to ear with the govt freebie announcement waiving off their bus charges? Our part-time sweepers and cleaners, housemaids, cooks, factory workers, tailors etc. Dear ladies, can you assure us now that the extra pennies you save thus will not end up in TASMAC bars through your alcoholic spouses.
Don’t please blame our Bihari or Nepali bhais ever for stealing your jobs. They make our lives much more easier than your busy husbands in the TASMAC queue. They also charge a fraction while delivering quality work in time. In ten years they will vote the BJP state govt to power!
This freebee culture is killing the industriousness and productivity in Tamil population. It has done its damage to the rural sector. Now whatever is thriving in the urban centers will be challenged.
Will the DMK govt clarify on these points:
- Will the same frequency of services of PTC buses be maintained if women passengers are not to be charged for the rides.
- How many plying buses, how many corridors exactly. How many in sheds for repairs and refurbishments. Exact figures please.
- How many buses need replacement.
- Will the waiver of bus charge be applicable to air-conditioned services, special routes and special services?
- Will the waiver of bus charge for women be applicable to additional services provided for festival times.
- Will there by any pay-cut for PTC staff. Will the promotions due to PTC staff, increments pending etc., be on time or will they have to be postponed to pay for the expensive DMK picnic with our women population.
- Will there be a reduction in fleet volume.
- What will happen to modernization plans. Will everything be put on hold.
- Data on the staff recruitment status and human resources training in PTC please. Will they have to be deferred to afford this concession to women passengers. When are the next recruitment drives and HRT due. Will they be as per schedule or will these be cancelled out.
- Strength of the fleet that will be operational six months down the lane along with corridor picture as against the present prevailing scene. A complete and comparative list must be published in media.
- What is the balance sheet of PTC showing. Exact magnitude of losses. How is the deficit going to be met.
- What is the revenue from TASMAC and how is it exactly reinvested.
- Why no TASMAC outlet is closed as yet. It was the DMK govt who protested in a big way for closure of TASMACs during JJ reign. Personally i was witness to one in Harrington road being shut forever thanks to the violence unleashed by the party. We had to turn back from our street fearing mobs instigated by the party workers.
- Can the DMK publish a declaration in social media that none in their political party or ministry or their families has a vested interested in anything connected to TASMAC including in the breweries.
- Are there plans to channelize any central funds into PTC women freebie.
- What is the DMK plan outlay for PTC improvement in next 5 years. Will the transport corporation ever become debt-free in DMK governance.
- What is the exact loan component the DMK is planning to add to the state exchequer with the women’s freebie. Is the party going to leave the state neck deep in debts.
- Is there a proposal to raise property taxes, electricity charges and other corporation/municipality levies in next 2-3 years.
Finally, as a woman who demands equality with men on every and equal footing, I resent any concession given to women because of our gender. It is a shame and it is regressive.