In a move that has caused serious heart burn among the working people of Tamilnadu, the newly elected government of Tamilnadu led by Dr.J.Jayalalithaa, increased the prices of public utilities and services like bus tickets, milk and electricity rates. The Government claims that the public utilities are making enormous and unsustainable losses. The only option that they have presented is to raise the rates at which the people can access these public utilities. In effect this government has passed the whole burden upon the working people. While the government’s arguments sound valid on the surface, its true logic and intent can be understood when we dig a little deeper and deconstruct their arguments.
Second part of three part series on analysis of the the recent bus fare hike from Working class perspective.
What does the working class say?
Domestic Worker commuting to Queen Mary’s college
All commodity prices have gone up, we are having tough time managing our budgets, and now time they have raised the bus fares. We were paying Rs 5 earlier now they have raised it by Rs 6. We have to pay Rs 11 each trip. They (employers) have not raised the wages. We have asked them but they said they will give Rs 150/- (per month) extra, but prices have increased by more than double. All of this is done by Amma(Jayalalitha). She gave an interview yesterday that without the increase, the buses will have to be stopped. But Vijayakanth(Opposition leader) has opposed this. They can raise the rates by say Rs 2/- but not like this. In this area, we are all wage labourers and get wages if we go to work that day. We work for very low wages, if even that is taken away from us by the government what can we do. An old lady who got into a bus yesterday was complaining to me. She works for a mere 1000/- a month (Rs 35/- a day). She was crying that if she has to pay Rs 9/- every trip (Rs 18/- a day) she will have nothing left and it will be better for her to stay home. The poor cannot take the burden. They (government) should not hit us. One thing I am sure, Amma is not coming back to power. We will be happy if she reduces the price. Reduce it here, raise it somewhere else, in other places. At least have more white board* services.
*White board service has the lowest ticket price. Green board(Express) and Blue Board(Deluxe) are priced 1.5-2 times the white board in the same route.
Domestic Worker commuting to Adayar
The bus fares have been increased double. Some buses charge Rs 6 (white board) and the other buses charge Rs 9 (Green board). There is no corresponding wage increase compared to the bus fare increase. Some people have stopped going to work because of the bus fare increase. The bus fares have been increased because the central government has not given money to the state and so state does not have enough money. The Government should stop giving freebies and use the money to control general price rises. A smaller increase would have been easier to adjust to.
Engineering graduate working as machine operator
It was very sudden. I had a 600Rs bus pass and suddenly they said we needed to upgrade in the middle of the month with no grace period to Rs 1000 to travel. I needed to find money urgently to upgrade my pass. What will people who earn Rs 3 to 4000 do? I earn Rs 7000 and even those who earn Rs 10000 find it difficult. Those who are in housekeeping find it difficult to commute. The bus fare could have been increased but not so highly. This increase is difficult for the working class to bear. This has only benefitted the Government.
Welder going to Adayar and other places
It used to take Rs 4 to go to Adayar but now it takes Rs 10-12. We asked our contractor about new salaries. They said that since price is fixed for existing contracts, they cannot do anything now. The chief minister has said that there is no money to pay bonus for paying the drivers/conductors. It cant be said that it can be justified because it affects working class esp. domestic workers who have to pay 30-50% of their salary. With price changing from bus to bus, its also difficult to say whether you will have money to come back when you go out. As this is a public service, Government should have taken care of this instead of passing this to poor people.
This increase in prices has been similar to telling a hungry person not to eat. Even though the government has given its justification for the price rise, it does not reflect our lives and reality. If there was an increase in salary with the increase in bus fare, then we can accept the bus fare increase. The government can give thousands of reason but it is not acceptable to our reality. The capitalists and the traders are the ones who use the (general) price raise. The government is the one who benefits by this price rise and those who supply to the government will benefit from the bus fare increase. The government should decrease the bus fare and improve the quality of buses.
MTC Bus Driver(Contract Worker), Conductor(Permanent Worker)
Even though bus fares have gone up, they are still very much lower than other places in India. But this one time hike is wrong. The government says that the Transport Corporation is in a loss. They have to increase the wages of drivers and conductors. The price of fuel has also increased. Therefore they had to raise the ticket cost. But the government can do many things, they need not only raise the tickets for this. They could have also raised the cost slowly. It is bad for poor people. Those who can afford to go in cars they are not affected, it is the middle class that is affected. They suffer much and we are being targeted by them. We have to hear all the abuses, we face a lot of problems these days. But what can we do?. There are not many permanent workers. Nearly 50% are in contract. First we have to get a number after years of service and only when our number is confirmed after more time will we be made permanent. We don’t know why the corporation is in a loss, after all they pay very low wages.
Share Auto Driver, Kannagi Nagar
The price hike is excessive; the government could have increased the prices by Re 1 or Rs 2, now it is double. I have not been affected much but the worst affected are coolie workers. Their wages have not increased and they can’t run the family. It is true that government is in a loss but 1 or 2 rupees is okay, it cant throw it fully on the people. Poor people are affected, government is the one that has benefitted, but what is the government it is only us. There is so much corruption in the government, Lakhs of crores have been siphoned off by ministers so why not get that money to pay for the debt. The government should improve the bus service as they will get lot of money now.
Bus fares have become very costly, wages is not enough, our family wage is already low. When fares increase our wages should also increase but that has not been the case. I don’t know why they increased, but I think government has not enough ‘tax’ (money). They could have increased wine shop (Liquor) prices. Only those who will drink will suffer, but now everybody suffers because of this. Only the government benefits and all of us, poor people, lose. We don’t want anything else, reduce the bus fare. Government says it has no money, but neither do we have any money. How can we support the cost?