Names have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees. Illustrations and photographs by Madhushree unless mentioned otherwise.

“Because we cannot see how much we have earned on the ticket vending machine, we have no idea if [on a crowded bus] the passenger has paid their ticket fare or not.”

On February 3, 2021, Ebix announced that EbixCash, its Indian subsidiary, had procured a 7-year contract with Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) to replace the old e-Ticket vending machines. The older handheld terminals had features that showed the conductors the number of tickets sold and the due amount. It allowed them to tally the two.

An old e-ticket machine. It has a screen and buttons with numbers 1

While sleek and efficient, the newer touchscreen devices only provide conductors with the option to issue and print tickets. The total tickets sold and the cash that ought to be deposited are only visible to the higher authorities. These authorities tally the money that the conductors deposit at the day’s end against the amount that the machine indicates.

The new machine. It has a touchscreen.

However, the conductors are informed every month that their deposit is short of amounts ranging from Rs. 50 to even Rs. 1000, according to sources that wished to remain anonymous. This amount is then deducted from their wages.

On most days, when the passengers don’t have change, conductors must make a mental note of who owes them change and who is owed change. According to Laxman, when buses are incredibly crowded2, numerous passengers must be issued passes and tickets within a short span of time. In such instances, people often pay extra money, forget to ask for change, or fail to pay the due amount. Ramesh, another conductor, also mentioned that some passengers take advantage of crowds and purposely evade fares or ask the conductors for change even when the conductor has already paid the balance amount.

Illustration of the new machine

The problem is that if passengers pay the extra money, PMPML receives it. But when passengers don’t pay the required amount, conductors have to bear the financial costs. All the conductors I spoke to mentioned that they have been attempting to bring this issue up to the authorities, however, to no avail.

On the 8th of December, 2022, I obtained a letter that conductors had drafted to address this problem.

मा. महोदय,

बस मध्ये वाहक सेवकांना तिकीट व पास विक्री करताना पैसे देवाण /घेवाण करताना प्रवाशांबरोबर वाद झाल्यास विक्री झालेल्या तिकिटांचा व तिकीट विक्रीपोटी जमा झालेल्या रक्कमेचा ताळमेळ घेण्याची कोणतीही सुविधा ई तिकीट मशिन मध्ये उपलब्ध नाही. ही बाब प्रवाशांना माहिती झाल्यामुळे ते बस मध्ये असलेल्या गर्दीचा गैरफायदा घेऊन जादा पैसे किंवा सुट्टे पैसे परत न दिल्याबाबत वाद घालत आहेत. त्यामुळे वाहक सेवकांना मनस्ताप होऊन आर्थिक भुर्दड सोसावा लागत आहे.

वर्षानुवर्ष प्रामाणिकपणे काम करणाऱ्या वाहक सेवकांच्या प्रामाणीकपणावर अविश्वास दाखवून या ई तिकीट मशिन मधील ताळमेळ घेण्याच्या सुविधा बंद ठेवण्यात आलेल्या आहेत.

तरी कृपया पुर्वीच्या ई तिकीट माशिन मध्ये उपलब्ध असलेल्या खालील सुविधा या ई तिकीट मशिनमधे उपलब्ध करुन देणे बाबत संबधितांना आपणा मार्फत सूचना होणे कामी विनंती.

  1. Collection Report
  2. Current Cash Report
  3. Previous Trip Report
  4. Total Cash Report
  5. Summary Report

English Translation

Respected Sir,

During the issuance of tickets and passes to passengers on the bus, in cases of dispute between the passengers and conductors, there is no mechanism in the e-ticket machine to tally the number of tickets sold against the cash collected. Passengers are aware of this and take advantage of the overcrowding in the buses by arguing that the conductors have not returned their change or have demanded extra money. Due to this, exasperated carrier servants have to bear the financial costs.

Due to a lack of trust in the carrier servants, who have worked diligently for years, the cross-checking features in these e-ticket machines were disabled.

However, please let the concerned know about making the following features from the previous e-ticket machines available in these e-ticket machines.

  1. Collection Report
  2. Current Cash Report
  3. Previous Trip Report
  4. Total Cash Report
  5. Summary Report

The user interface of the new e-ticket machine. There are two blanks for Boarding and Destination names. There is a multiple option button from 0-15 to select the number of tickets. There are two buttons, one to “Print Ticket”, one to “Cancel”. At the top right of the interface, the screen displays the total amount due.

While the short-term solution to this problem will be to introduce the aforementioned features in the ticketing machines to allow for transparency, it is still only a temporary solution to the large gap in PMPML’s infrastructure. Overcrowding will remain a hurdle for both passengers and conductors. To properly address this problem, there needs to be more investment into maintaining the pre-existing infrastructure, adding more buses, and employing more workers.

  1. Image by Rsrikanth05 licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. ↩︎

  2. On Pune Buses and Crowds ↩︎