Passengers and pandemic: Ramani’s ticket to new life

Ramani NP, a 43-year-old mother believes she needs to make her contribution to the fight. The lady bus conductor makes sure her passengers are safe during their time on the bus. Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

Ramani NP pulls the string that rang the bell at drivers end signalling to move forward. The engine picks up speed on the curly roads giving her a moment to settle on her reserved seat. “We are doing it for our people,” she says.

The mother of three, once a week, drives about 100kms one-way to start her shift as the bus conductor. The state bus starts its first trip at 7:20 am, which shuttles across Calicut district returning back to KSRTC depot at Totilpalam, a valley town of Western ghats.

“There is no bus to go back by the time we reach back to the depot due to lockdown. I start at 5am, before sunrise and reach back home at dark,” Ramani explains.

Ramani hails from Mukkam, the south-east tip of Calicut district where her daughter in second grades waits for her.

“It is a personal decision,” shes clarifies. “The cooperation is considerable to lady conductors. I like coming to work.”

It’s been only a month since Ramani joined Kerala’s public transport bus service – KSRTC. Due to the pandemic, she only has one shift a weekly, a safety measure taken to prevent contact to the deadly virus.

The 43-year-old is responsible to make sure the bus is cleaned and sanitized before the ride. She checks the passengers in maintaining distance and properly wearing mask.

Second outbreak

Kerala, which celebrated an early success in containing Covid19, is struggling with a constant spike in community spread in the second outbreak of the pandemic.

“My husband is a overseer at KSEB ( Kerala State Electricity Board) he never stopped working. Our family has adapted the new normal and we make sure we take every safety measure,” says Ramani.

Ramani has taken many jobs before joining KSRTC through the public service commission selection process. The government job gives security and Ramani is proud of her achievement.

Dipping to zero new cases in June first week, The southern state reports more than 500 cases every day a month later. Ease in lockdown and mismanagement of quarantine of newly arrived expats are believed to be the fault lines.

“We make sure all the passengers are wearing mask at all time,” says Ramani. “I feel responsible for them”.

KSRTC has cut the services to nearly half to reduce unnecessary transportation. Strict measures are imposed on all buses to fight Corona spread.

“People are mostly cooperative,” says Ramani. ” Some bring trouble but make sure nobody rides without a mask”. Many rely on the State bus service which plays a huge part in connecting the faraway towns to the city.

With the second outbreak marking community spread, lives of every essential frontline workers are at risk across the state. The authorities are pushing for strict measures to contain the spread. Kerala also expects flood due to heavy monsoon, that made wrecked havoc in the state for the last two years.