It was perhaps Arvinder Singh Lovely’s first--the first ride on a DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus ever since he became transport minister of Delhi.
It was worth becoming news for TV channels because in India politicians never hop on a bus for their daily commuting, leaving the comfort of their light-flashing vehicles.
So when Lovely did hop on a bus for few minutes, cameramen were there to film the occasion. Lovely was seen talking to a few passengers on an almost empty bus and asking the driver to start off. He got off after traveling a small distance where his vehicle was waiting to take him to office.
The aim perhaps was to experience a ride on latest low-floored buses and review their functioning ahead of the Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in October this year.
I wish Lovely just didn’t take a token ride and actually boarded a bus to reach his office to be able to empathise with the Delhiites’ daily commuting woes.
His PR exercise is in sharp contrast with what Delhiwala goes through every morning and evening while rushing to work and coming home in overcrowded buses.
In peak hours, there is hardly any room left on buses for anyone to stand comfortably, bodies brush past other bodies, some apologies while getting past each other while others don’t bother as it’s a daily routine and some take advantage of the situation by deliberately sticking to others and blaming it on the overcrowded buses.
And imagine if the driver applies the brakes. All the passengers toppled by the jolt start spewing verbal venom against the man behind the wheel.
Travelling by DTC buses is still better compared to Blue line buses known as killer buses because of the number of people these reckless over-speeding buses crush on Delhi roads every year.
While the state-run DTC bus drivers run almost on time without waiting long at each bus stop after picking up passengers, Blue line bus drivers never abide by the time schedule. Much to the annoyance of passengers, they wait endlessly at a bus stop until they get enough people. This is not all. They would start speeding all of a sudden at a mindless pace if another Blue line bus is seen on the same route. They would try to get past it to catch the next bunch of passengers at the following stop.
The maddening driving of Blue line drivers is coupled with the frenzy of conductors. They resort to spitting, swearing and start beating the bus with hands to create the tempo to overtake another bus.
And if anyone objects to this irrational driving either s/he would be ignored or asked to get off the bus.
This is just a slice of bus traveling in Delhi. Though ever since the metro train has been introduced in the city it has reduced the burden of buses and has added a sort of sophistication in the way Delhiites commute.
But still the places where the metro doesn’t run through, buses are the only way to commute. These buses will also be used during the Commonwealth Games. Blue line buses are scheduled to be phased out from the Delhi roads by then, but travelling experience by buses is not likely to change until there are adequate buses to cater to a huge commuting population.
Nine months are left for the games. The Delhi government hopes that by then they would have a world-class fleet with courteous drivers and conductors simialr to that one experiences in the developed world.
For this, thousands of drivers are being trained in etiquettes, in toning down the shrill of their dialects and in English language as they will have to cater to foreign players.
Whether the Delhi government will be able to achieve this image-makeover is yet to be seen. But for the time being DTC officials, who have been ordered by Lovely to travel on buses every second Monday of the month, can give the minister a rather honest picture of what commuting is like for the common people in Delhi.