Maria Fernandes | NT KURIOCITY
For commuters in Goa buses packed to capacity is a familiar scene. Regulations haven’t stopped bus conductors from packing the buses to nearly over-flowing and violation of rules appears to be the norm of the day. “Rules are violated openly and nothing is done about it. There is a limited number of standees, 11 or 14 that is allowed in the buses but in reality the conductors never adhere to this limit,” says Vaibhav Nayak. “Sometimes there is no space even to stand but the conductor still squeezes more people in. If we complain, they are rude and tell us to get down and take a taxi. It can be very humiliating,” adds Rajshri Bhobe. In a situation like this, where people are sandwiched against each other it is also difficult to differentiate the men who are harassing the women and who are not. “Oh yes, it becomes very difficult and even embarrassing when you can’t figure out what is going on. There are some real perverts who travel in the buses and it can be very horrible for girls and puts us in such a fix! It happened to me once and when I accused the person he turned around and said he wasn’t doing anything. It was so disgusting but what more could I say or do in a situation like that,” asks Tricia D’Mello, a resident of Bambolim who has to change three buses to reach college. Overcrowded buses also means the conductor has to push through the crowds to come and collect the fare. This not only gives the conductor but other men an opportunity to push and shove as well. “I have become an expert in elbowing any unwanted touching,” says Niharika Sathe, “I have no choice but to travel by public transport but this does not mean I can or should be touched or harassed in any way.”
Besides the overcrowding, seats reserved for ladies and senior citizens are often misused. Men just won’t give seats to ladies even though it clearly says reserved for ladies. “Once I recall I was feeling very unwell and asked a man to allow me to sit on a seat reserved for ladies and he point-blank refused. The bus was so crowded that getting the conductor to intervene was impossible,” says 18-year-old Tasneem Nazare. “Even if the conductor is there, he hardly ever intervenes,” says Amit Shirodkar, “I know this for a fact, as an incident happened before my eyes and when I supported the woman in question, I was told to mind my own business. The conductors are really rude and often drunk.”
Cheating them of their change is another complaint that many students have. “I haven’t been returned my change so often, I have lost track. Now I make it a point to keep enough or exact change for the bus. And if I don’t have the required change I just let it go rather than fight with the conductor,” says Hemant Adhia, who has to travel from Panaji to Vasco and then change to another bus to reach college. The same conductors who justify not returning the change with the wave of a hand, will create quite a scene if they are not given the full fare, due to shortage of change. “If we give a rupee less, they will not keep quiet and shout in front of everyone,” adds Michelle Gonsalves, a resident of Raia. “These are the same people who literally surround us and force us to board their bus and not their rival’s. But if we are short of change they make a big noise.”
Frequency of buses is another problem that plagues commuters. In the suburban areas however the problem is not as acute as compared to the interiors where often infrequent buses cause delays and related problems. “I believe those living in the cities are very lucky compared to us,” states Priyal who travels from Sanvordem to Vasco. “In the villages the frequency of buses is quite bad and also the inadequate number of buses adds to the problem.” “I have to travel to Cujira for college and here in Marcel the buses have timings. If by chance I miss a bus the next bus sometimes takes more than half an hour. As both my parents are working getting them to drop me is out of the question. Also getting a ride from a known person is not always possible and I do not like to ask strangers for a lift,” shares Criselda Fernandes. In some areas and villages commuters have to walk quite a distance to the main road, which is the only place where the buses are available.
Infrequent and insufficient buses lead to delays that students cannot afford. “The buses move at their own pace; sometimes the drivers drive like they are Michael Schumacher and at other times the buses are so slow that even a person on foot can overtake it. Also the buses stop just about anywhere and we passengers have to keep quiet,” says Daniel Fernandes who often has to miss the first lecture. “If we are late for classes, the teachers don’t let us in and we lose not just attendance but also what is being done in class,” says Nigel D’Lima. “This can also lead to low attendance and can affect our performance academically.” Leann Quadros adds that the physical exertion of travelling by bus leads to exhaustion even before college begins. “The summer months are the worst and after travelling in the crowded buses, paying attention in class becomes difficult.”
Well all is not lost; as there are students who are quite satisfied with the services of the public transport system. “I have been travelling by the shuttle every day since three years and to date there has been a problem just twice and that too because of accidents on the road. I must say the shuttle service is very organised,” says Rehman Sayed. “There are problems however the overall services are fine and we should be grateful for small mercies. Remember it could be worse,” adds Ruth Almeida.