September 17, 2011

The DTC Chronicles

Bus conductor and commuters
अंकल एक 10 की देना...
A few months ago I wrote about That Elusive (Bus) Seat highlighting how difficult it is to get into a bus in New Delhi and get a seat inside it, while talking about time tested strategies that I use to (hopefully) get one. Well, since then I have traveled a lot more and experienced a lot of other things about Delhi Transport Corporation.

Bus Pass
Till now I have been travelling in highly subsidized student bus pass. ROI time period was just 4 days and hence the rest of the month it felt like I was travelling for free! Of course, student bus pass don't work in the new AC buses. And I felt like whenever I needed a bus I could always find the Red one but not the Green one.

So, as soon as the student bus pass period ended, I started buying the daily citizen AC passes. Now, as usually it happens, only the green ones are available in the nick of time.

Over (the top) Crowding
Try travelling in a crowded Delhi bus. It really is an adventure to get mobbed! And that is why I travel backwards to get a seat. And when you get a seat it is really interesting to see how scores after scores of 'junta' would get inside the bus (interestingly seldom does anyone board out!). Just when you think that even a single person can't enter now, the conductor with his excellent crowd management would make way for 10 more! And this is where I learnt about the excellent flexibility of human body and nature :)

Smart travelers
A common DTC traveler has really become smart. He won't get up from his seat to buy the ticket/pass but just pass the money to others. One time, I waited 5 mins for somebody to go to conductor to buy his/her ticket. When no one got up, I had to do the job. To my surprise immediately at least 3 more people gave me the money to buy the ticket! And thanks to overcrowding, I spent literally half of my (50 mins) travelling time buying tickets/passes for others.

I also noticed something interesting. When you travel at night, people would come up to you and offer their passes to you, so that you can travel for free! I know it is illegal but good to see that Delhi people want to help each other.

You would think that AC buses would be empty or at least less crowded due to their higher fare slab. But the scorching Delhi heat and non existent standard buses have made sure that Red buses are as crowded as the green ones (thus negating any advantage you get by paying extra price).

"But at least you get to travel in AC?", you may say. Well try travelling in one during a summer afternoon. At least 2 times I have sweated inside those buses! You won't realise them to be AC until you are sitting just below the machine openings. I have wondered if they work on alternative sources like solar energy or DC-battery operated.

DTC conductors
When I wrote about Bluelines, I gave a special mention to their conductors. Well, DTC ones are no better. Many of them would enter the buses only when the bus is about to leave from it's starting point. What that means is that the everybody would surround him and haggle for ticket for the next half an hour. One time I noticed a conductor giving tickets/passes non-stop for 37 minutes without pausing for even a few seconds!

Recently I noticed a few lady conductors inside DTC buses. Now, I don't know if they really required the job or just wanted to prove to that they are not behind men in any field, or it's a new scheme of Delhi Govt. giving reservation to women in DTC. Anyways, it was good to see that 'junta' behaves properly with them.

And this is not it, there are a number of other instances where you are left wondering if it would be better to have your own vehicle (for the record, I am a fierce advocate of public transport). One thing is certain that buses running on Delhi roads are not enough. And while Delhi govt. is trying to improve the situation (recently it started its first private cluster in Central Delhi) but I still think I was right when I said that Blueline buses shouldn't have exited prematurely.