Hyderabad: Engineering colleges, most of which are situated in the periphery of the city, reported low attendance on Monday although they were reopening after a gap of 22 days. Many students could not make it to their respective colleges, particularly those having RTC passes as most temporary conductors refused to entertain passes of any kind. While many students, worried about the travel pains, preferred to skip college, those who braved and tried to make it did so by risking their very life.
The daredevilry was such that many were seen hanging on one leg at the footboards of the overcrowded buses. To the passerby, the scene was scary, to say the least. Students who travel by college buses found, to their dismay that the carriers did not turn up despite waiting for close to 45 minutes at the regular pick-up points. Apparently, most college bus drivers have been provided temporary jobs in the TSRTC as a means to keep its show running in spite of the ongoing strike by the regular drivers. The 'hired' drivers are paid a handsome Rs 1,750 per shift. Mr. Srinadh C., whose son is studying in a college at Medchal, observed, 'Many engineering colleges are around 50 kilometers away from the city.
Some students have to travel a distance on RTC buses to reach the pick-up points. The strike has adversely affected all of us. It is unfortunate that children are at home when they have to be engrossed in completing their syllabus.' Most engineering colleges are located in and around Uppal, Gandipet, Kompally, and Medak and there are no Metro Rail services on those routes. On select routes around Medak and Ranga Reddy districts, RTC buses ferry engineering students. Some of those colleges have an arrangement with the Corporation, which plies extra buses and caters exclusively to students of those colleges. Unfortunately, these link services are not operating for the past three weeks.
Last month, irate students broke the window panes of a bus belonging to Uppal depot, which did not operate too many buses to their college. To ease their woes, TSRTC added five more buses on the Ghatkesar-Bogaram stretch. As things stand, with the non-availability of drivers, students are deprived of transportation facilities. Mahesh Raju a third-year chemical engineering student, explained, 'My team had to submit a project and we had to hire private cabs to go to college. It is so expensive a proposition that we will run out of our pocket money by the time the classes are fully regularised.' Mr. Shankar K., who attends an engineering college in Ghatkesar, said, 'Most of the students, who cannot afford college bus facility, depend on RTC services for which we have taken annual passes.
The strike is making it difficult as we have to shell out extra money to attend classes.' The vicious circle is such that the transport contractor for private buses is facing problems of his own, particularly from the drivers, who are now on contract with TSRTC. Mr. Narsimha Chary, a contractor, said, 'I have to send new drivers for college buses as the regular ones have not reported working. They are not returning saying they are in villages, although we know that they are in the city, taking advantage of the temporary employment being provided by the corporation.' These new drivers were having difficulty with routes, recognizing students and bus stops, which is resulting in the students going late. In a related development, around 60 engineering students were at Pragathi Bhavan, expressing solidarity with the Congress leaders and demanding the government to resolve the RTC crisis, sooner than later.