MSRTC still stuck in wrong lane

A year after bus driver Santosh Mane went on a rampage killing 9 and injuring nearly 30, nothing seems to have improved in the way the MSRTC functions. Newsline takes stock of the system in place

After the Santosh Mane incident, said to have been triggered by mental stress, MSRTC drivers and conductors had been promised proper working environment. A year after the rampage, nothing has changed, and they say they conditions are as 'appalling' as they were a year ago.

"Why won't there be more Manes in future? Several circumstances that created the devil in him still persist. The apathetic state transport body has the same indifferent attitude as it was a year ago. There is no end to the inhuman treatment meted out to us," was the chorus from drivers and conductors, when a Newsline team visited them at restrooms at Shivajinagar and Swargate depots.

'Poor' salaries and 'meagre' allowances were their biggest worry.

"More than 27,000 state transport workers of the total around one lakh have been receiving 'junior pay scales' since 2000. Their salaries are almost 40 per cent lower than other staff. Contractual worker get only around Rs 4,000. It is far less than what the Minimum Wages Act stipulates," Sanjay Munde, president of the Maharashtra ST drivers, conductors and mechanic union, told Newsline.

He said drivers and conductors receive a paltry three rupees to seven rupees as night allowance, and they cannot afford even tea during halts. "Our allowance has become a laughing stock. To cite another example, we receive Rs 14 as stitching allowance for two uniforms," he said. Munde suggested the government to take measures like reducing road tax and exempting toll for MSRTC buses, and diverting the money towards salary of staff.

Difficulty in getting leaves they are entitled to was another major issue MSRTC staff have raised. They said their higher-ups were whimsical while sanctioning leave.

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