Commuters feel the heat as buses go off road

Only 409 buses of a total fleet of about 23,000 made trips on Wednesday; life hit in most parts of the State

Public service buses came to a complete halt in the State on Wednesday, barring a few stray cases.

Only 409 buses of a total fleet of about 23,000 made trips. Owing to restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic, workers did not hold any protest rally but stayed home and did not report to work. In many districts, Road Transport Corporation (RTC) officials failed to convince employees to report to duty.

Normal life was hit in most parts of the State โ€“ Bengaluru, Old Mysore, Kalyana Karnataka, and Mumbai Karnataka regions โ€“ where the strike was almost complete. In the coastal belt, where private bus operators dominate the market, life was less affected. The four RTCs suffered a total loss of โ‚น17 crore on Wednesday, government sources said.

Though the government roped in private transport operators, a large chunk of commuters seemed to have suspended their travel plans, since they were warned of the strike.

10-km walk

However, the strike left many commuters, especially the poor and women, stranded across the State. Commute to work and home were severely impacted, especially pinching daily-wage earners. โ€œWe have to go to work or else lose pay. But private vans charged almost three times what they do regularly,โ€ said Suma, a garment worker from Vidyaranyapura in Bengaluru. She walked for nearly 10 km on Wednesday.

This was not an isolated case. In many parts of Bengaluru, people heading to work were either stranded or walked. Muniyappa, a painter from Tumakuru, walked from Bommanahalli to BTM Layout. Many said they could not afford private transport. Many heading to hospitals or with small children were particularly hassled.

Panic flight

Given that the call was for an indefinite strike, there was panic flight from the city, fearing they would be trapped for days to come. โ€œI have to go back to my village in Madhugiri for a medical emergency in the family. Since the strike is said to be indefinite, I cannot afford to wait,โ€ said Prashanth Kumar, a carpenter, waiting for a private bus at Jalahalli Cross in Bengaluru. The area saw huge crowds through the day waiting for private buses.

Stranded midway

While some could reach their destinations, others were struck midway and landed in taluk centres. Paravva Dodmani, who reached Kundagol, got stuck there. โ€œI came by a private vehicle from Hubballi hoping I would get a private vehicle here. But, I waited for four hours as there were no vehicles to the villages,โ€ she said.

Some families, who had brought patients to the Bagalkot district hospital, were forced to sleep on the hospital premises as they could not go back to their villages. โ€œI sent my son home and I am waiting for bus services to resume,โ€ Meherjan Abiduddin, a farm labourer from Nidagundi, said.

In Mysuru, Dheeraj K., a marketing executive, looked worried as he was unsure of getting a direct bus to Hubballi. โ€œI have to break my journey, catching private buses from one place to another, to finally reach my destination. This affected my schedule as I cannot say when I can reach Hubballi,โ€ he said.


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