Stop Commission System : Save Lives of Citizens
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Mr. Suvendu Adhikari,
Government of West Bengal
According to data available with Bengal traffic cops, the total number of reported road accidents and the deaths caused by them were 921 and 463 in 2017. The corresponding figures in 2016 were 1110 and 562 [The Times of India, 7 Jan, 2018]. Among them, in Kolkata alone, the proportion of deaths were 71% (329/463) and 72 % (407/562) in last two years respectively [The Telegraph, 29 June, 2018]. Even the Safe Drive, Save Life campaign has made little impact in making any difference in this dire situation so far. As we all perceive , the major cause of road accidents in our state is reckless driving perpetrated with maddening race for passengers mainly by private buses and the most important factor behind such cruel attitude is commission -based emolument system among private bus operators prevalent mainly in five districts, namely Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas. Drivers and conductors get 12%-14% and 6%-9% of the day’s earning respectively in the aforesaid districts. As more passengers means more income for the drivers and conductors, drivers become falling prey to going beyond any rules by picking up passengers beyond capacity making bus riding dangerous for commuters and roads completely unsafe for public as well .In the rest of the state, bus workers earn daily salary (Rs 600/-700/- and Rs 300/-350/- for drivers and conductors respectively) [The Times of India, 29 January, 2018]. We are aware that you had a meeting with all stakeholders on 18 June and announced that this inhuman commission system will be replaced by salary system from 1 July, 2018 [Ibid.]. However, Transport Department has already deferred it by one month to August 1 [Dailyhunt, 13 July, 2018]. Seven months have passed and the new system is still nowhere to be seen. Perhaps the biggest impediment in the implementation of the salary system is the resistance from Unions of private bus operators who have already raised issues such as demand for freedom to hike bus fares in order to compensate for the loss they, imagining, would incur for giving salary to the workers [The Telegraph, 29 June, 2018].
Our arguments are: First of all, nothing can be acceptable at the expenses of human lives. The brutal system that kills innocent commuters regularly in street and in bus as well , makes hundreds of homes bereft of breadwinners, renders hundreds of children orphan every day, cannot be tolerated on any pretext in a civilized society.
Secondly, most of the loudly spoken concerns of bus operators are guided by vested interests. Unions take a handsome share of the earnings of labors. "Unless you are working overtime, earnings are never going to be enough. And if you are not on the right side of the labour union, you may not even be employed," said a driver on route number 230 (Kamarhati to Alipore Zoo) [The Telegraph, 30 June, 2018]. Moreover, once the bus workers will come under salary system, bus operators will have to arrange for their EPF, DA and other employment related benefits.
Our demands are
1. A realistic salary system that should be started immediately without making any unnecessary delay in consultation with all stakeholders.
2. Union leaders are to be strictly instructed not to raise unjust demand of fare hike on the pretext of new system which would add to the exploitation of common people already overburdened with massive cost of daily living.
3. Union leaders should refrain from taking huge share from the hard earned income of bus workers.
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