By Shubhankar Chakravorty
BANGALORE (Oct. 13)—Private buses plying in and around the city are employing minors to work as conductors and help on the vehicles.
The children yell out routes when the buses stop to pick up passengers, hanging precariously from the fast-moving vehicles—right in front of the eyes of traffic police.
Noting that the transport sector is the largest employment sector in the country, G.G. Hegde, an official of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation, told The SoftCopy: “It is definitely illegal and not uncommon that kids as young as 10 years old are employed [by private bus service operators].”
“The private buses meant for transporting workers, for intercity movement or those registered with tourist permits are illegally picking up and ferrying passengers within the city,” Hegde said. “These buses, which aren’t enlisted with any organization, are immune from operational regulations. They do not provide authentic tickets nor do they follow any [approved] route.”
Subinspector Vasant Bhagwat of the city police’s Traffic Management Centre, said: “There is no real way of identifying the private buses—whether they are company buses moving workers or tourist buses—so checking their employment manner is also tough. If they are caught picking up passengers from bus stops within the city, they are penalized.”
Inspector Gangadhar of the city’s Traffic Control Room, which deals with infractions detected by the Traffic Management Centre’s cameras, said, “Kids working as cleaners on private buses are not an uncommon sight, but there is not much that the traffic department can do to check the problem.”
A traffic constable on duty at Corporation Circle in central Bangalore refused to comment on the employment of children by private bus service operators.
NGOs have yet to take action
NGOs working for child welfare in the city that The SoftCopy spoke to said they had not taken any action on the issue of minors employed to work on private buses.
Mr. Jose of the Bosco NGO said: “We at Bosco need feedback from people updating us on cases of child employment. Our NGO invites complaints so we can take action on the matter and rescue the kids.”
Mr. Balan of the Child Rights and You NGO said: “People should make use of the toll-free helpline number and register their complaints so the kids can be rescued.”
Sabeel Shroff, a commuter who spoke with The SoftCopy at Corporation Circle, said, “Bangalore commuters have got used to seeing these children hanging out of buses speeding to the next stop.”
There are no records of how the children working on private buses are employed or from where they are brought.
Private buses operate across the city and its outskirts, handling a considerable chunk of commuter traffic, much of it unlawfully.
Add to that the issue of their employing children and the failure of the concerned authorities to crack down on scofflaw private bus service operators is inexcusable.
(Published in The SoftCopy)