PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: OUR SYSTEM IS BUSY COMPARTMENTALIZING US..

Ideally, politics of democracies like India which have mixed cultural environment (socialist + capitalist), strives for a class-less society – at least the political rhetoric largely says and still tries to go (though the corresponding acts do not support).

But we live in an environment, in a society, where class is a reality, where sub-classes are seen as natural as the human existence, where society is layered between caste, religion and income disparities.

Yes, a capitalist transformation of policymaking and economy was indeed the need of the day to address the innate problems of the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous country that was also home to the majority of poor in the world.

And it has helped people to transcend barriers of caste and thus social status to graduate to any category their capacity allows them to. But the share is still small like the share of inter-caste and inter-religious weddings – almost non-existent when seen in the context of around 1.25 billion people strong Indian community.

Alternatively, it has caused deepening of the layered structure of our society – based on income disparity – based on the sociological slicer – the widening gap between haves and have-nots.

And the easiest way to realize it is having a look on how our modes of public transportation work – in terms of handling passengers.

Start with buses – and you have buses poorly kept and managed that carry the largest number of people from our society – people who can afford these buses only. Graduate many steps higher and one can see some air-conditioned buses plying on the roads. These buses, though internally as shabbily managed as their poor non-ac counterparts, are much less in number because authorities know very few people can afford them or prefer to afford them. Then come at the top the luxury air-conditioned buses – like the Volvo bus services. Very few, from well-to-do class of society, who cannot manage a train ticket or who still cannot afford a flight ticket (for different reasons), opt for these.

Similar is the story of India’s lifeline – trains run by Indian Railways. People from the lowest strata of the society fight for an elusive berth or some hard-earned place in general class, unreserved compartments of trains. Those who are still financially weaker enough to afford the ac-class tickets (including Gharib Raths), choose for some relief in reserved tickets of the sleeper class. And these two categories of coaches carry the maximum number of people – in the overall passenger traffic of Indian Railways.

Then comes the ac-class. It has classes and sub-classes. It starts with Gharib Raths for the poorest of the lot who opt to go for an ac ride. Then comes the numbers of ac-3, ac-2 and ac-1, in increasing scale of cost and therefore comfort levels. Most ac-preferring guys go with ac-3 (three tier air-conditioned class). Types of trains also discriminate here. Express trains cost less than super-fast trains while Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains are considered cream of the bunch. In fact, ac-1 of Rajdhani trains proves costly than an economy flight ticket when taken well in advance.

But the class story extends to airlines as well – most visible in segregation of budget airlines from full service carriers.

Budget airlines or no-frills airlines have made it possible for people to consider flying who can afford ac train travel. But customer satisfaction and customer comfort are the last items on priority list of these carriers. How passengers are cramped in these aircrafts is an issue of global debate.

And even many full service carriers behave insensitively towards the needs of the economy class passengers. Although they make the bulk of the bookings, the crew is more leaned in catering to the needs of the so-called premiere class or executive class or business class or first class passengers. Normally, these tickets are priced almost three-times to an economy class ticket.

Then there are sub-subclasses within the economy subclass. Many budget airlines and full service carriers segregate passengers based on their paying capacity or preferences into different categories – those paying for a lower package – those paying for a higher package – and those paying for an even higher package. And this one is worse than all because the discriminated passengers are made to sit a larger unitary space that is more or less uniform.

Our system is busy compartmentalizing us – based on our income status.

And we have no other way but to be and to become part of this system.

Yes, every type of exception does exist – but then – an exception is always ‘exceptional’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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