Like any other city in India, Mangalore also has city buses. But you may ask, so what's unique in these buses? Why I am writing about these buses in my blog. The answer is in the question itself, the service is really "unqiue" unlike any other city in India. That makes me share my views on Mangalore buses.
Mangalore buses are unique like the Local trains in Mumbai or the Dabawal's in Mumbai. Its associated with Mumbai Local trains because it has become the life line of Mangalore transportation and it is associated with Dabawala's because Mangalore buses also are well organised and the time management is just perfect.
Mangalore is dominated by private buses. They come in all colours and is vibrant like the India. Majority of the buses in Mangalore are built on Tata Chasis, these days Ashok Leyland and Eciher chasis buses can also be seen in Mangalore. There are a few Swaraj Mazda buses also.
Most of the buses in Mangalore's dont have glass windows, but they are open. Mangalore generally has hot and humid climate. This type of design is just perfect for the buses. It helps circulation of air well and passengers dont feel hot and uncomfortable while travelling. Most of the city buses are build in Mangalore, but these days you can also find city buses built from Karur. For those of you dont know Karur in Tamil Nadu and Jalandar in Punjab are the main hub for bus body building.
Coming back to the topic there are good things and bad things also about Mangalore buses. Now first the good things.
Mangalore has one of the best fleets of private buses, New buses are introducted at regular intervals. And the latest designs are always in town. Having the latest model of buses is a prestigious issue in Mangalore and people also recognise it. Many companies are still kown for thier trend setting buses and people just love to travel whenever new buses are launched. During school and college days I too would wait for new buses to come.
Mangalore buses are clean and neat compred to most of the private buses from other cities in India. Private owners spend a lot to maintain the buses and make it attractive. Buses are cleaned daily after they finish the trips.
They also have FM radio or MP3 players in the buses to entertain people. Sometime you feel that you are travelling in home theater. There are good things and bad things about playing songs in buses. Good songs are a melody to ears but sometime horrible songs are also played. People keep blaming for these songs but I feel the drivers and conductors are not the composers of these songs. Just joking. Yes private owners must also look into the type of songs being played. If bad songs are played why will people travel in thier buses to hear bad songs.
The recent problem in Mangalore, introduction of KSRTC buses. Is this a solution or is it going to kill the unique tansportation system of Mangalore?
I am from Mangalore and currently live in Bangalore from past few years. But still I keep going to Mangalore every month or once in three weeks. I have a different view point on introduction of KSRTC buses. Its not a solution which we are adopting logically. Here are few reasons if we do some out of box thinking.
At first are we right in blaming the private bus owners, drivers and conductors for mess? Frankly speaking no. Mangalore buses were not like this 8 or 10 years down the line. I have traveled in Mangalore City buses for 20 years. The private city bus service was excellent. There was no cut throat competition then. So where did this all began which everyone forgot to question.
If anyone would ask me then whom should we blame. I would tell the transport authorities and ministers. Don't get surprised.. Yes, they are the actual culprits who ate money and gave permits for buses without thinking.
Take a example of Route no 15. When I was in school there were hardly 5 buses. The buses had some 20 mins to 30 mins gap between the two, No competition at all. The buses used to go slowly. But all of a sudden the RTO's started giving permits for buses one behind the other. Guess now what is the time difference between the two, just 2 mins and sometime even 1 min gap there are buses. Don't get shocked that's the way permits are issued. That's the very basic problem for this mess. Why didn't the RTO's or anyone think what they are doing will have serious problems. The guys behind issuing permits made money in lakhs and crores and never thought what would be the result of their foolishness.
And in Mangalore - Udupi route there are permits issued at 45 seconds gap between two buses in the evening rush hour time. In 45 secs the first bus would have have covered 1 KM and there is another bus ready to chase it. Mangalore bus transportation is one of the best but there are harsh realities also.
Now the private owners who have invested in lakhs on getting permit and purchasing new buses, wants the money back. Else how will he survive and pay back the loans. Many private owners have become bankrupts and some even have ended their life in this business due to the pressure. If KSRTC runs into loses no one will pester then to pay money back immediately. But if a private bus runs in losses the banks just come and seize the buses. Most of the private bus owners do not have other business for their livelihood. The big operators can manage, but small operators have huge pressure.
If you dig the reality of the glamorous world of private buses there is a reality of the sad things happening at the back end which doesn't get highlighted. After all why a passenger will think all this. We as passengers just want a comfortable travel. We have become busy in our fast moving world and sometime start ignoring things till it starts hurting us back.
The other problem for the mess is the roads, some of the roads are horrible and buses need to stick to their schedule what ever the road or climate condition is. Once I had asked a driver why he was driving like this in heavy rain , the roads were also bad. He said what to do, if we don't keep up the time other conductors come and fight with us. They even get the local goons to threaten us. So we are forced to. I told him why don't you tell the cops, he just smiled telling .. "They" ... I understood when he said that. The system itself has become blame game cycle. No one takes the responsibility.
Upon that from past few years they have time keepers at every major bus stops. If a bus is a min late they cant pick up passengers. This has done more harm than good. The drivers are forced to make up any delays in traffic by over speeding in crowded city roads.
Traffic has increased a lot in Mangalore, however the road size has not increased , the road width is same as 30 years before. The road conditions have still become worse. I had never seen the National highways of Mangalore in this condition for almost 20 years. I used to be proud of National highways. But now look at national highways they are worst than village roads.
Adding KSRTC buses will further add pressure on private buses. There will be more competition. And KSRTC can never give a service which currently Mangalore private buses give. I agree they are rash and dangerous. But being in Bangalore I know how KSRTC bus services are. They are good but they cannot match the Mangalore private bus services on time keeping and reliability. I don't want to get deep into it.
Now coming to the solution, first RTO's must reduce the permits or extend the permits to rural area's so that gap between the buses increases, this will reduce pressure on drivers and also help to connect more places. Also punish the law breaking private bus operators. All are not bad, hence let good operators lead their life happily. Let's also ensure the private bus drivers and conductors do not loose their job and sit at home. They also have families to feed. We need to think beyond.
Let the authorities give training to drivers and conductors on careful driving and handling passengers. Punish the people who still don't come into line. Improve the road conditions, it will help operators to save money on maintenance and thereby reduce pressure to earn more money.
It is not impossible but it can be done if there is a will to do attitude with transport authorities and politicians.
In Mangalore people have seen both KSRTC and Private bus services. The BC road route always had KSRTC buses and still it has. People very well know even after years KSRTC has still not been able to provide a good service. Sometime you can find 5 buses going one behind the other to Dharmastala and sometimes there are no buses for 30 mins. Show me a timetable of KSRTC which is fixed for a year. Everything is on records but non is implemented. But in Mangalore the private buses have been maintaining the same time table for years. No change in timing. You can still wait for the bus at the particular time even after years.
In Mangalore we know in 1.20 Mins we can reach from Mangalore to Udupi which is 60 KMS away. That's the time perfections they maintain. But in places like Bangalore. We dont know what time the buses come and what time it will reach. KSRTC just works like any other government department but its better than other departments and trying to modernize.
There are many places in Dakshina Kannada which are still not connected with frequent bus services. Introduce the KSRTC buses to such area's. It will help people commute atleast.
Also look at the newly introduced KSRTC service between Mangalore and Kasargod. Now we need to wait for buses to come. At first they introduced several KSRTC buses, but like any other route KSRTC buses keep vanishing without any notice.
Look inside the KSRTC buses they are not well maintained and seats are full of dust and look at the private bus interiors, they are very vibrant and clean.
KSRTC can launch buses if they are on par or better than private bus operators. But unfortunately KSRTC also has several loope holes, let them become perfect in BC road and Kasargod routes and show they people they are better than private operators. Then I would also agree, else when there is a good network of private buses, why not improve it.
In most of the tire two cities there were no good and efficient system of private bus operators hence introducing government buses makes sense.
Also note government wants to introduces buses just to make money, they get good commission on buying the chassis and body building. That's their primary motive. Do visit the Volvo depot in Hebbal in Bangalore. You will get a shock there are many Volvo buses just kept in depot and not put into service. They have got the buses several months back and have kept it instead of using it for public.
Do visit Bangalore and look at the bus stands after 6. People wait for hours for buses to come. And once stand near the Yelahanka depot after 6. Most of the buses cut the last few trips and go to depot. That's also the reality of KSRTC/BMTC.
But in Mangalore even if there is one passenger buses still leave on time and reach on time. You need to stay in Mangalore for few months and travel in Mangalore private buses only then you will know which one is better.
Its just like the Dhabawal's of Mumbai who have managed the system very well.
Even if KSRTC introduce's Volvo can a average citizen afford to travel in it daily. The answer is no. They are far expensive than Private buses. But KSRTC volvo's are needed, it will help auto and car commuters to go for this service there by reducing traffic on roads.
And Mangalore has already GPS enabled buses. It was introduced in November 2007. Check this out.
And almost 80% of the Mangalore buses are just within 2 years. Private operators keep introducing new buses. If you compare it with private buses in Bangalore or Mysore they are totally different. Look at the condition of private buses. Do travel in it to know how it is.
And why should the government build bus stands/ bus terminals for KSRTC alone.? Aren't they building the bus stands for public use. Isnt it their responsibility ? Has the government every considered Mangalorean's demand for a good private and service bus stands. I can see a lot of bus terminals being developed in Bangalore and Mysore, but there is none in Mangalore. Mangalore is the second highest tax paying city next to Bangalore, why is the government not spending that money in improving bus stands. Many Small bus stands in Mangalore are doanted by Social clubs and private people.
Look at Kerela, private bus stands are not built by private operators but the government for public use. Kasargod has a private bus stand which is better than government bus stand. And it has helped the public a lot. Can the Karnataka government ever do this. People of Mangalore have been asking from years still nothing has happened.
As the people staying in places like Uttar Kannada where there are only KSRTC buses. They rely on Auto's and Maxi cabs for commuting. KSRTC is not a private operator to run in profitable routes, they also have a responsibility to connect every place in Karnataka. Let them do that first, in many places in North Karnataka people badly need buses.
I have been to Mysore couple of times, KSRTC is doing well there. There are excess buses also in Bangalore - Mysore route, but unfortunately KSRTC doesn't has sufficient buses to operate the existing nationalized routes in coastal belt. I have been closing seeing the KSRTC buses in Mangalore. The reality is when there is political pressure due to public complaints on lack of buses in the BC road routes many KSRTC buses appear and when people forget they just disappear.
People in this route still commutes by Taxi's because there are hardly few ordinary buses. There is a lot of so called "Gloomal". If you see the number of buses going towards BC road there are many KSRTC. But if you observer how many are ordinary and express buses, the ratio may be 10 Express bus : 1 Ordinary buses. The KSRTC Express buses ply from point to point with few stops. Ordinary buses have stops everywhere. So people wait for more than 30 Mins / 45 Mins to get one ordinary bus. So people still take other alternative's to travel.
Sometime you can even see people traveling in trucks, because KSRTC buses are not there. They don't have sufficient buses like Bangalore and Mysore to maintain the existing routes.
Now KSRTC has launched some 4 city bus services in Mangalore. The thing is these are old buses which have been removed from Kasargod and Puttur routes and made to ply as city buses. I feel they have introduced these buses due to political pressure. Else they could have waited and launched some new Marcoplo buses in city.
And in Mangalore the concrete roads are hardly some 5%. The politicians claim they have done a great job and there are very good roads in Mangalore to the Media and the outside world. But what happens to the rest 95% of the roads, they are not even patch worked. The remaining roads are just terrible and are like dead roads. Many outsiders think why people of Mangalore crying about roads, the actual conditions are such that no one can imagine that such roads can ever exit in a city like Mangalore.
Have a look at the below links on Mangalore road conditions. You cant find such roads in Bangalore or Mysore. How can buses maintain time gap in these roads. They are not roads but mini lakes.
The larger problem is the failure of political system and government administration. Be it any political party all have failed to set things right. Everyone makes promises and talks big. Everyone keeps telling we have allocated so much crores for roads, but at the end nothing is happening.
Some blame Heavy rains, some blame Bellary mining trucks. But Mangalore had heavy rains from centuries why is it that now we blame rains. One the one side we are having better technology and latest machinery, but on the other side roads are going from bad to worse. Why cant the people concerned make such roads which can withstand heavy rains. Its possible to do in India but there is no willingness to do it.
If Bellary trucks are overloaded instead of Blaming them make a road which can withstand 50 ton load. These problems will never arise then.
Here are some facts:
There are 2,750 private city and rural buses in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, they account for Rs. 452 crore turnover a year.
There are 8,000 families of bus crew, besides 3,000 agents who solicit passengers and 200 time-keepers. Thus, about 12,000 families directly depend on bus services.
Bus drivers earn anywhere between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 10,000 a month while conductors get Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 7,000 a month. Cleaners are paid Rs. 4,500 while time-keepers get Rs. 150 a day and agents 4 per cent commission on the amount of tickets.
My concern is what will happen to all of them if KSRTC introduced buses in Mangalore. In Mangalore employment opportunities are very poor unlike Bangalore or Mysore. You can even find few graduates/ PUC pass people driving buses, because they can earn more. A graduate in a educated job can earn Rs 4000 or Rs 5000 in Mangalore and they don't have any other alternative employment. That's also a sad reality.