Elders’ day out, thanks to corporate care (Feature)

May 27th, 2009 - 10:47 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, May 27 (IANS) Clad in a heavily starched white and maroon sari and sporting a golf cap with ‘Volvo’ written on it, septuagenarian Aloka S. could not stop giggling as she along with 30 friends boarded a bus at a Bangalore hotel and headed for a resort to spend the day.

Aloka and 99 members of the voluntarily organisation for elderly people, Ashvasan, were part of a special daylong programme titled “Elders’ Day Out” organised by Volvo Bus India Private Limited as part of corporate social responsibility.

“I am excited. I want to enjoy the day,” smiled Aloka.

Three Volvo buses were engaged Tuesday to carry 100 members of Ashvasan to the resort Club Cabana, around 20 km away from Bangalore.

“It’s a wonderful day for all of us. We’re thankful to Volvo for the nice gesture. We’re surely going to have lots of fun in the resort,” said 81-year-old Lalita Ubhayakar, the founder of the voluntary organisation, after the trip was flagged off.

The flagging off ceremony was attended by Syed Jameer Pasha, managing director of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), and Akash Passey, managing director of Volvo Buses India Private Limited.

The entire programme was sponsored by Volvo Buses.

“Elderly people are a forgotten lot. We wanted to add some happiness to their lives and thus planned the daylong programme with Ashvasan. Moreover, we want to stress that Volvo buses are the safest mode of commutation for elderly people and all,” said Passey.

A group of 10 guides from Volvo buses were also posted to look after the needs of the members throughout the day.

Ashvasan was founded in 1993 to address various issues related to the elderly people of the city. Today, the voluntary organisation has 1,000 members and has 10 branches in Bangalore.

“The organisation caters to the need of elderly people belonging to various strata of society. Along with health related issues and security problems, Ashvasan also helps its members to deal with financial problems and their emotional needs,” informed Ubhayakar.

B.S. Srikantiah, a member of the organisation and retired general manager of National Textile Corporation, Bangalore, also made a few suggestions to BMTC’s Pasha to improve facilities for elderly bus commuters.

“I am a regular bus commuter, as I don’t have my private vehicle. Often I see that young people occupy seats reserved for senior citizens. The conductor and driver also don’t bother to ask the commuters to vacate the reserved seats. I feel BMTC should make strict guidelines to follow the rules,” said Srikantiah.

Volvo runs the city bus service in Bangalore in collaboration with BMTC. Everyday around 40,0000 Bangaloreans commute in 5,000 buses run by BMTC. Currently, the city has 340 Volvo buses.

“We’re planning to add another 200 Volvo buses on the city roads by year end,” informed Pasha.

“Produced in Bangalore at the Volvo factory, these buses bring with them the world’s latest safety features,” said Passey. He said the buses are disabled friendly.

Volvo Bus and BMTC are planning to organise more such programmes for senior citizens in the coming months.

“Once we get the feedback from Ashvasan, we will like to incorporate all the suggestions provided by the elderly and experienced citizens of Bangalore to make bus services better in the city,” said Pasha.

As for main grouse of commuters of ticket prices being too high on Volvo buses - almost three times more than regular buses - Passey said: “The ticket prices have come down a lot since the time Volvo buses were first introduced in the city. And with the increase in volume of passenger intake and number of buses, prices will come down further.”

According to figure available with Karnataka’s Department of Welfare of Disabled and Senior Citizens, Bangalore had 565,668 elderly people in a total population of 5.28 million in 2007.

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