Today, I had the pleasure of boarding three buses in the evening. The conductors came promoting the tickets, each of them being Rs. 14, 5, and 14 respectively. On all the tickets, a number for the residue change was scribbled on the back, assured to be given before getting off the ride; like the “Collect on Go” in Monopoly. Most of us collect the M200 at the Go, and definitely the real-world change wherever it is due. Saving a rupee today will add-up to a hundred next month, then a thousand, then enough buy to fly to Switzerland and back with your loved ones. That’s the reasoning right?
So, here’s another reasoning: don’t take the change. No, no, I am not saying that saving is bad or promoting altruism towards random human beings. A conductor makes Rs. 6000 a month for two years in his probationary period, which becomes Rs 14,400 after five years. That’s pittance if he/she is the single working member of their family, and living in Bangalore, which most of them do. I never took the change. Six rupees from ten people amounts to 60 a day and 1800 a month. A nice boost to the measly salary our government pays for the upkeep of their service.
A counter-argument to my irresponsible and money squandering ways is that it encourages the habit of selfishness and greed in the conductors. If one person does it, they expect everyone else to do it, and in no time they will have enough money to buy the BMTC and order jets from Boeing and Airbus with the loose change from our kindness. This would indeed be true if everyone has a baggy pocket. But, they don’t, do they? Most of the bus commuters are BPL, lower middle-class citizens like myself, for whom every rupee adds to something tomorrow. I saw an old man asking for two rupees from the conductor, who didn’t have any change then, and the old man refused to get down though his stop had arrived and gone in the argument; whether he took another bus to that stop or walked over the bridge I do not know.
An argument to the counter-argument is: BMTC must pay their conductors more. They make about 4.5 crores a day from the robust fleet of 6200 buses, and they have always hiked the fare whenever diesel prices have gone up; or come down. Recently, there was strike demanding a hike of 1/3rd the current salary of the conductors. BMTC didn’t budge, as the government didn’t allot the funds for increase in pay or improve the quality of the workplace (the bloody buses stink and it gets cleaned once a day). This made a lot of the staff very grumpy, and rightfully so, as sweating with a thousand people every day is not an easy task, and the cardio to stand and run across the bus is more than that of a football referee. Are they right to be angry and swindling every possible customer from the morning? Not at all. The solution is in the allocation of budget for salary hikes and not increase the number of buses in an already overflowing fleet of eight-wheelers.
We can blame, bicker, and bitch about the government till we die. But, can we do something about this mess in our own little ways? I don’t know. I try to contribute whenever I can. I love freebies myself, having mooched on my parents’ money from the day I was born, not a proud achievement, but I will do something about it soon: like the BMTC and the central government promising ‘ache din ayenge.’ One day, this mess will sort itself out or someone will sort it out: winters will pass and summers will come, and there will be spring where the flowers bloom and bees buzz with radiant life. The nectar and honey is at the horizon, and we can get there together, as a community, as a mass of people and spirit, and then march to the next desert, and the next oasis: together. We are blessed with thought and logic to travel through time, no? Then why are still cringing to tip waiters, conductors, janitors, cleaners, and lepers?