“We do not have any problem in giving concessions to students. But when they sit in the seats, it becomes difficult for the other passengers,” says Nandan (name changed), a private bus employee. Many other bus employees share Nandan’s opinion.
In fact, this has been the situation for so many years now. No one is sure when exactly this ‘custom’ started. Students who travel with concession have to undergo various obstacles before reaching their destination.
The concession allotted to the students by the government is not a favour bestowed upon them by the bus operators. It is the right of every student to avail concession. A student who has been given concession has to be treated the same way as any other passenger. Sadly, in Kerala this is not the situation. Here, the passenger who has bought a ticket is given more importance than a student who has availed concession.
After undergoing a similar experience, Manu George Francis, a student of KKTM Government College, Pullut, filed a Right to Information (RTI) application to the Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Thrissur, with regard to the student concession procedures in private buses. The application was filed in order to clear out the misconceptions related to the concession system that is prevalent and enlighten students on their rights.
He asked the RTO the following questions:
1) What is the time limitation for the bus concession?
2) Are the students allowed to sit in the buses when they give the concession rates?
3) Is students’ concession applicable on holidays, including Sundays?
4) Does the student, who gets concession, have to wait for the bus to start before entering it?
5) What is the kilometer limit for the concession?
The RTO has said, “There is no time limit for the bus concession and the students who get concession can sit just like other passengers in the bus.“
He also added in the response to the RTI application that students are eligible for concession even on Sundays.
There is a practice in many parts of Kerala where students who avail concession are made to wait outside and only allowed to enter the bus before it takes off. But the RTO ruled in favour of the students and said that there is no such rule. He also mentioned that the kilometer limit for the concession is 40.
Most students get up from the seats when the conductor requests them to. But Manu is not one to back away.
“With my limited knowledge, I often lock horns while traveling in bus because of this issue. But when I see my friends, both girls and boys, standing for long distances even though there are seats vacant, I thought there is need for some documentation to fight with the bus operators. What the private bus operators are doing is totally illegal,” Manu says.
Bus operators often create their own timings for student concession. If the student has to travel before 7 a.m., then he/she has to give the full charge. There are many unwritten rules like these. But remember, student concession is your right and not a favour.
Main photograph by Liji Jinaraj via Flickr.