By: Dipu Shaw & Gaurav Kumar
Have you given a thought to the number of people who make a living out of the blueline buses? The drivers and conductors may be the only people who come to your mind. But, wait! There are others too.
Jitendra Kalra runs a small business of supplying water to the drivers and conductors of the blueline buses. He employs six labourers for this. They fill the 15 liter water cans at the nearby Mandavli Water Tank at Rs 5 per can. They charge Rs 15 from the bus drivers for the water.
As the blueline buses stop at the Shakarpur stand, Ritesh Pandey, the water supplier can be seen rushing with a can of water into each of them. Ritesh, a labourer from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh is paid Rs. 3,000 per month by his employer for the job.
There are more than 50 such points at various bus routes in the capital. About 250 labourers are employed by small businessmen. They supply the cans of water to more than 4,000 blueline buses in the capital. While Ritesh rushes in and out of the buses exchanging the cans of water with empty cans in the buses, his colleague Manoj Kumar refills the empty cans at a water tank about 2 kilo meters away. Ritesh only gets a few minutes to supply the water and scribble the number of the bus in the small pad that he carries in his pocket.“I supply water for the first half of the day and from 2 pm we start collecting the money from the respective buses,” informs Ritesh. The passengers are usually too busy to notice him. Some even mistake him to be a fellow commuter when he enters the buses.
However, this business which is as old as the blueline buses may soon close down. The Government aims to phase out all the blueline buses from the capital’s roads. The red and green low floored DTC buses are already on the roads. “The phasing out has already begun and soon we will get rid of all the killer blueline buses,” says Haroon Yusuf, Transport and Power Minister. When asked about these water suppliers who would loose their means of livelihood, the Transport Minister said that the safety of Delhites was more important than the income of such small businessmen and labourers.
The DTC bus drivers do not buy the water cans. Instead, they drink water at the DTC Depot which is available for free.
Businessman Jitendra Kalra has other alternatives. “This is an illegal business and I am not solely dependent on it,” he specifies. Nevertheless, for poor labourers like Ritesh the blueline buses are the only means to earn their bread.