Question.What’s worse than a terrible nightmare? Answer.Waking up to the news of a bus, train or an auto rickshaw strike. News of this nature is always followed by panic and while we are unable to look beyond our own inconvenience on that given day, fact is – a public transport strike effects everyone in its own distinct way. From a house-help to a peon, from a young corporate worker to a retired old gentleman, from the roads to the planet – nobody escapes the repercussions of this shutdown. While it’s not new to read about such strikes in the newspaper and make eleventh hour arrangements, what’s bothersome is the current frequency of such halts. We can blame the constant occurrence on the advent of ride-sharing transport companies or the mismanagement of the government – either way the common men, women and children suffer.
In this piece, we take stock of how a bus or a train strike affects the day-to-day functionality of a city and provide suggestions that could alter the situation in the future. Hope lives on.
A Traffic Jam of Problems
- A strike has the potential to burden the planet: Frequent strikes create the desire in people to own their own private vehicles. This tendency poses the danger of overburdening, an already crumbling planet.
- A strike creates lack of empathy: Apublic transport strike especially affects people who live in the outskirts of the city or areas that may be affordable but not very well-connected – for example, a junior executive from Nalasopara, Mumbai who wants to reach Juhu on a day with no buses or trains on the road. Chances are, he might receive little empathy from his car-driving bosses for arriving late and if he can’t make it at all, he could also risk losing a day’s salary.
- A strike causes major inconvenience and expense:The support staff community, like the house help or the security guards of a building have the hardest time during strikes. While each neighbourhood has a network of such people and most of them live at short distances, a bus strike means that they either walk to work or spend their hard earned money on a rickshaw. A weekly strike, therefore, can either dig a hole in the support staff’s shoe or their pockets.
- A strike adversely affects health:Some people lose a day’s wage, some get screamed at by the boss for arriving late, some have to bear overcrowded trains while some are unable to make it for business meetings and sometimes, lose business. Sudden disruption in important plans are a huge cause of anxiety for people, a strike by that logic, is a recipe for ill-health
- A strike is fodder for harassment: When buses or taxis are on strike, the auto-wallahsacquire the position of privilege and hike the rates immediately. This is also the time when ride-sharing cabs bring out the surcharge.
A dialogue towards solution:
Before we move forward, we’d like to familiarise you with the Essential Services Maintenance Act. Interestingly, this act by the Parliament of India was established to ensure the delivery of certain essential services, which, if obstructed, affect the normal life of people. This simply means that each times a bus, train or auto rickshaw announces a strike, and a parliamentary act is being violated. Having said that, it would be futile to point fingers and perhaps constructive to offer a bunch of suggestions for future:
- The matter should be handled between the policy makers and the transport unions intelligently, without it becoming a nuisance for the common man.
- Since most strikes are borne out of discontent towards unfair remuneration, a transparent trajectory of compensation should be chalked out.
- A three to five year blueprint must be established at the very outset and followed through the period.
- It’s important to look at a solution-oriented and pro-active approach so that the policy makers and equipped to handle the roadblocks.
The implementation of these suggestions may take time but if there’s one thing we’re ready with, it’s the hash-tag against strike, towards a better country and a healthier plant.