The ST bus has emerged as the new 'walking stick' for senior citizens above 75 years of age and has given a new lease of life to around 75,000 senior citizens daily, who are able to travel freely on all its buses. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), also known as ST, recently started a scheme for free travel for people above the age of 75. The scheme has turned out to be a great support for lonely senior citizens who appear to be using the opportunity to travel and meet their relatives more often. Earlier, senior citizens were charged 50 percent of the fare for travelling on ordinary buses and 45 percent for travelling on Shivshahi buses. On Shivneri buses, they need to pay full fare.
The MSRTC daily operates around 15,000 buses across the state, including air-conditioned Shivshahi and Shivneri bus services. After the implementation of this scheme, the number of senior citizens above 75 years old travelling on these buses has increased dramatically. This scheme was launched on August 26th and in the first 10 days, i.e., between August 26th and September 4th, 9,50,147 senior citizens above 75 years of age availed the facility.
Hitendra Shankar, 82, resident of Murbad, who travelled from Murbad to Kalyan frequently, said, "This facility has changed my life. Earlier, for the visit of my daughter's homes I needed to arrange money for the fare , but now this problem is resolved and I can meet my daughter, who lives in Kalyan frequently." Hitendra Shankar is the former and his two sons also live with him in Murbad and are engaged in agriculture-related work.
Similarly, Kondeji Maruti Shinde (76), a Junnar resident, is pleased with this service."Earlier I thought twice about visiting Kalayn to meet my son and grand children, but now when I feel bored, I come to meet them," said Kondeji Maruti Shinde, adding that now the joy of my life has increased.
Residents of Kolhapur who came to meet their relatives in Ambernath said, " Now senior citizens are feeling free to travel. Earlier, most senior citizens who depended on their children's health were not able to travel frequently." According to Jagnnath Chimaji Shelar, because most senior citizens do not have a steady source of income, paying the fare was a major issue for them.
When contacted by a ST bus conductor, he stated that previously, very few senior citizens were able to use luxury bus services such as Shivneri, and that most of them were reliant on ordinary buses due to the high fare, but that they are now beginning to enjoy the ride of air-conditioned Shivneri buses as well. "This scheme is receiving an overwhelming response," said MSRTC's development spokesperson. Under this schem, zero-valuee tickets are being generated by the corporatio. The, costof thef ticket will be reimbursed by thestatee government.