Sri Lankans in general wish the law to have loopholes. In places where the law is effective they’ll try to bribe government officials and in some instances even the law enforcement officers. When they can’t have their way they’ll stage protests. This is what some private bus operators (Drivers) are doing at present. At the time of writing several people have been slightly inconvenienced by the actions of these bus operators who have decided not to ply their vehicles.
They are protesting, among other things, against the increase of spot fines; specified for indisciplined driving. These protesters are making it very clear that for them earning money supersedes obeying the law! In other words they are demanding an unlawful world to exist when they drive their vehicles.
Commuters now have to hold back celebrating this decision taken by the Government because strike action in Sri Lanka produces results, especially when a government is not strict. The majority of the country’s citizens commute by bus and a strike can cripple their day-to-day activities. At present only six unions representing bus operators have joined the strike and many more such unions are expected to join in these strikes. Those who haven’t joined the strike have done it on humanitarian grounds because they don’t wish to hinder candidates sitting for the ongoing A’ Level Examination.
The revision of spot fines makes the minimum fine Rs 500 and the maximum fine Rs 3000. The Government has specified 33 traffic violations which are subject to fines. On the other hand these protesters have requested not to impose these fines till the necessary technical equipment is fixed on the roads. But a statement made by the spokesperson for these striking bus operators has made us ponder where this country is heading in terms of becoming a disciplined nation. This spokesperson was quoted in the newspapers as saying that the excessive fines would severely inconvenience their operations.
Bus operators hogged the roads till the bus priority lanes were introduced. Bus operators offered resistance to this move, but later complied with these regulations. Now there is some order with regard to how buses pull over to the side of the road to pick-up passengers. There was a time when buses were stopped in the middle of the road for passengers to embark on to the vehicle. It’s good if these bus priority lanes are brought into operation in other parts of the country.
The Ministry of Transport has said that these fines were raised to make drivers more disciplined. If one stands on the New Kandy Road, where the Panadura-Kandy bus plies, a frightening sight of reckless driving by these bus operators can be witnessed. The Government passed a law where no overtaking can be done on the left, but these private bus operators keep doing the same.
The law makers of this nation must also consider banning the showing of music videos inside buses because blaring music isn’t the taste of the majority of commuters who are returning home after a tiring day in office. There was a time when bus operators forced commuters to listen to the sad stories of people who have experienced rape, betrayal and domestic violence by switching on their radios. There is a sigh of relief that this programme is no more!
Private bus operators have the guts to appose moves to discipline them and have a platform to raise their grievances. But poor commuters have grin and bear during instances where they aren’t given tickets for the fare they pay and also when the entitled balance isn’t returned before they disembark from the vehicle.
The Government was lenient with those who initiated a recent trade inion strike and crippled the operating of trains. It’s the wish of commuters that the Government pulls up its socks and deals sternly with these protesters and at the same time works on strengthening the bus service during this month of exams and school holidays.