Kerala suspends bus staff for insulting award-winning activist

Aluva (Matters India): The driver and conductor of a bus owned by the Kerala government have been suspended for allegedly misbehaving with a renowned social worker.

The employees known only by their first names — Shylan and Yousuf — had reportedly behaved rudely with Daya Bai (merciful woman), who has been working among tribal people of central India for more than half a century.

Daya Bai was traveling to Aluva in a bus operated by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) late in the evening on December 20 after attending a function in Trichur, 65 km north.

As it was dark, she reportedly asked the driver whether the bus was nearing Aluva bus stand. She repeated the question to the conductor.

As the septuagenarian social worker dresses like an adivasis woman, the conductor began abusing her and forced her to get down at an unfamiliar area long way from a bus stop.

As she sat on road in anguish, people asked her why she had got down there. She narrated her ordeal to them. Someone uploaded her experience in Facebook and other social media groups triggering a public outcry.

Kerala Transport minister Thiruvnachoor Radhakrishnan and KSRTC Chief Managing Director Antony Chacko suspended the two bus staff members and publicly apologies for the incident.

“It was deeply hurting that my friend and noted social activist Daya Bai was insulted by the driver and conductor of state-owned KSRTC bus. More sad that they used vulgar language against her and forced her to get down in an unknown area at night,” wrote Veteran journalist George Kallivayalil, a friend of Daya Bai, wrote on his Facebook page.

The resident editor of the Deepika newspaper in New Delhi was present when the Indo American Press Club honored Daya Bai with Sathkarma (good deeds) Award 2015 on October 10 in New York. “Let this unfortunate incident be a lesson for all to respect the poor and elderly people,” Kallivayalil added.

Daya Bai was in Thrissur to receive Father Vadakkan memorial award. She then went to Pavaratty school to take classes for student police cadets. After the class, two policemen helped her to board the KSRTC bus to Aluva.

Daya Bai has been working for the socioeconomic advancement of tribals in central India. At present she lives in Barul village of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh. Her maiden name is Mercy Mathew and hails from Palai, Kerala

She left her home at the age of 16 to become a nun. She left the convent later as she found its rules too restrictive to fulfill her desire to help the poor for which she had left her home.

She uses inspiring speeches in a language that reaches out to her audience and conducts protests and campaigns to press local authorities to open schools in remote and interior village have helped improve the lives of tribal people.

She was associated with Narmada Bachao Andolan (save Narmada struggle) and the Chengara agitation, apart from her solo struggles representing the forest dwellers and villagers in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Daya Bai, who practices the theology of liberation, had served common people in Bangladesh during the 1971 war.

Daya Bai received the Woman of the Year Award from Vanitha, the largest circulated woman magazine in India, in 2007. She was awarded with the Good Samaritan National Award (instituted by the Kottayam Social Service Society and Agape Movement, Chicago) in January 2012.

Ottayal or ‘One Woman-Alone,’ is an hour-long documentary on her by Shiny Jacob Benjamin.

Nandita Das, a film actor and activist, has written a tribute to Daya Bai in 2005, as the one inspiration of her life.

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