I’ve been travelling a lot after leaving IITM and coming to Bangalore. Travelling inside the city, I mean, using Bangalore’s well run bus service, the BMTC. The bus service is regular, the fares are reasonable, the buses are well-maintained (especially compared to Chennai’s buses), and the employees helpful. They even have a functioning webpage that gives out bus routes and route numbers. There’s something that bothers me, though.
On every bus run by the BMTC is a message asking passengers to buy tickets for their travel. Except, it says ‘Buy ticket to avoid penalty’. I’ve been bothered by this since the first time I saw one of these stickers, and here’s why:
Passengers buy tickets to travel on these buses, and that’s how the bus service generates the revenue necessary to keep buses running. Passengers can, if they want to be dicks, and with only a little effort, not buy tickets and travel on the buses. This behaviour can be deterred to some extent by occasional checks and penalties for ticketless travel, but can never be eliminated. The maximum punishment imposed on a ticketless traveller, especially one who can feign contrition, is 10 times the travel fare. This isn’t nearly enough punishment to stop the crime.
This reminds me of people advocating the death penalty as a deterrent against crime. It isn’t. Not nearly enough people get caught, tried, convicted and executed for it to be. Also, the solution clearly isn’t to (‘legally’) bump off more people. If anything, the solution, for example against the rape of women, is to educate men about gender-equality and ensure that society’s views and opinions change over time.
I think the messages asking people to buy tickets to avoid being penalised are misinformed and ultimately futile, if not also regressive, for the same reason. People should buy tickets. But this shouldn’t be because they’ll get penalised if they don’t. People should buy tickets because the service they use, run by the government they’ve elected, using funds paid from their taxes, will collapse without the revenue generated by the tickets. The solution isn’t to threaten people with punishment, or to increase the quantum of punishment. The solution is to educate the citizenry about their civic responsibility. Somewhat like this, if you will.