MSRTC still stuck in wrong lane
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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.
Ganesh Agale, a driver, said, "We often face abusive language when we apply for leave. Our leave forms get misplaced mysteriously. Staff on ' junior pay scale' do not have sick leaves. Is this justified?"
Some drivers and conductors said the scheduled journey times on different routes had not been revised by the MSRTC for years despite a marked rise in vehicles on the roads, which had stretched travel time.
"For instance, we are expected to cover the Pune-Nashik distance in four-and-a-half hour but it requires at least six hours," said conductor Pramod Shelke, alleging the MSRTC is deliberately not rescheduling journey timings to escape paying more overtime charges.
While most MSRTC restrooms reportedly do not have cots drivers and conductors complained of instances when even drinking water was not available.
Ganesh a driver, who had arrived from Jalgaon to Pune travelling more than 400 kilometre said, "We have to sleep on the floor on our own bedsheets. The situation becomes worse on rainy days when water leaks through the ceiling. There's foul smell from toilets. How can we get sound sleep in dormitories after long journeys?"
MSRTC chairman Jeevan Gore and managing director Deepak Kapoor were not available for comment on the complaints of the staff.