The Arithmetic of “Change Illa”

Bangalore’s BMTC bus conductors often don’t have loose change in their pockets. Some napkin math on what this means.

Sai Ramachandran
2 min readFeb 4, 2024
Photo by Niminal Media on Unsplash

Earlier today, I took a bus to reach a coffee shop where I was meeting a friend. As luck would have it, I overshot my stop because I was day dreaming and had to go the opposite way for one stop.

This one stop hop cost ₹5. And the conductor simply pocketed my ₹5 coin without giving me a ticket.

While I did notice the missing ticket, since there were no BMTC officials at my destination stop verifying my ticketed status, I chalked this off as a bit of a victimless crime — I paid my fare, the conductor got a bit of side income, and nearly empty bus which was anyway going my way got some use.

Then, while returning home — a much longer distance — the conductor didn’t have ₹5 in change to return to me. My fare was ₹25, I gave the conductor ₹30, and got ₹0 in return.

“Change illa, sir”. Don’t have change, sir.

This time, it sure wasn’t a victimless crime. I was the victim. I was being cheated out of my change.

But the incident got me thinking and doing some napkin math.

Say every conductor does this twice on every trip — i.e., every time a conductor is on board managing a trip, they are twice able to pocket ₹5 from passengers like me.

Say they work 25 days a month and manage 10 trips per day.

The average salary for a BMTC bus conductor is ₹3.3L as per this link.

So, a bus conductor is able to earn 25 x 10 x ₹5 x 2 = ₹2500 / month in unaccounted for, tax free money.

If they average income tax is 15% which means their take home pay is roughly ₹2.8L, they are earning a 10.7% bonus (₹2500 * 12/₹2.8L) for doing their job (poorly)

What other job in the world gives you a 11% bonus (tax free) for half-assing your job? Is this fair? I’ll let you decide.



Sai Ramachandran

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