PVT bus operators’ body demand water pouch, ORS for staff from EC, transport body

Kolkata, Apr 29 (PTI) Expressing concern over the raging heat wave in southern districts of West Bengal and parts of northern plains, an organisation of private bus operators on Monday asked the transport and election authorities to arrange drinking water for bus employees.

The Joint Council of Bus Syndicate commands support of over 70 per cent of bus operators in Kolkata, Howrah and North and South 24 Parganas districts in the state.

“Employees attached with the 30 per cent of buses that had not been procured by the Election Commission to conduct the Lok Sabha polls, and the rest 70 per cent of the requisitioned fleet are falling sick in the extreme heat conditions.

“They are suffering from dehydration and showing fatigue and heat stroke symptoms,” Joint Council of Bus Syndicate Secretary Tapan Banerjee told PTI.

While a bus can complete two trips in a day instead of four in the present situation, the bus requisitioned for poll duty has to ferry policemen to security camps, booths, and election officials from one point to another travelling for hours, he said.

“We request the transport department to arrange water pouches for the bus employees, at different points and depots. More importantly, we urge the EC to provide water and ORS pouches to the bus workers who are already doing election duty,” Banerjee said.

While around 7,500/8,000 buses used to ply in the city and neighbourhood during pre-Covid time, the number has come down to 3,000-3,5000 now.

Banerjee said one-third of the bus employees have fallen ill in the extreme heat in past one week.

Seventy per cent of this fleet has also gone off the roads due to the election process.

The EC recently raised the fee for hiring buses but the operators dismissed it as not enough.

“Our employees have to stay on election duty for not less than 72 hours. Every driver and conductor has to be on their toes for 24 hours for three-four days but they get only Rs 250 as daily wage.

“We demand Rs 500 as daily wage for every bus staff. This is absolutely necessary to sustain them due to the extremely hostile weather conditions at present even if the water pouch and ORS cannot be provided,” Banerjee said.

The EC announced Rs 2530 hiring rate for every bus from the 2019 hiring rate of Rs 1,900 every day.

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