I think we have turned into a country where everyone considers he owns a free pass to transform into a law every crap that comes into his mind. The Executive Director of the Athens Public Transport company (OASA) seems to be one of them. OASA CEO Grigoris Dimitriadis told the Greek parliament that “ticket dodgers should be imprisoned” and that the ‘crime’ of being caught in action without a paid ticket should turn into a “misdemeanor“, a crime that can fine offenders with 3 to 5 years imprisonment!
Speaking to the Parliamentary Committee in charge of the prior actions omnibus bill, Dimitriadis proposed that public bus ticket dodgers should be imprisoned and that the ‘crime’ of not having paid €1,20 should turn into a misdemeanor.
Under the current law, ticket dodgers of OASA are fined with a fine approximately 60 times the price of the fare. But a ‘misdemeanor crime’ can send the offenders – in this case ‘the ticket dodger’ – for 3 to 5 years in prison if the court acknowledges that the criminal has “intention.”
According to Greek media, Grigoris Dimitriadis said that the intention of his proposal was not to punish the ticket dodgers with severe punishment “but to send a message to society that public transport must be sustainable and qualitative.”
However, this specific society did not receive well Dimitriadis’ message.
Bus driver abandons pupil, 10, in the middle of nowhere
This Greek society was already in outrage about an unbelievable incident in the town of Corinth, Peloponnese, when a bus driver left a 10-year-old school kid in the middle of nowhere, because the boy had no ticket. “I am not a charity,” the driver of a private KTEL bus reportedly told the boy. According to local media sources, the boy could not prove that he was a school pupil with a right to free transportation and also had no money to pay 1 euro for the fare. The boy’s father made official complains to the KTEL company and all authorities involved and stressed that “none of the other passengers reacted to the incident, neither did one offered to pay the fare.” When called to testify, the driver told the KTEL chairman “My mind was stuck.”
Greeks react angry to OASA proposals
This angry Greek society, troubled with austerity, recession, unemployment and unfairness stormed the internet and the media with sarcastic comments and strong criticism to the bad services of the public buses.
“Why put ticket dodgers in prison, we could shoot them right away,” a lot of internet users commented sarcastically. Other proposed “seizure of assets and properties” or even “return of the death penalty for such heinous criminals.”
Many recalled the tragic incident in August 2013, when a 19-year-old man lost his life after a quarrel with ticket controllers and a trolley driver. “There should be punishment also for ticket controllers who cause the death of a passenger,” an internet user asked.
Others started complaining about the bad services of buses and trolleys in Athens and the suburbs, the long schedule delays, the drivers with often rude behavior towards passengers or neglected appearance. Drivers speak rude to passengers, are “unsaved”, “talk to mobile all the time” or “with a cigarette stuck between their lips” as some of the angry public transport passengers noted. And some reminded of the good salaries and the many privileges and benefits of the sector.
Transport Minister asks CEO resignation
Transport Minister himself Christos Spirtzis joined the chorus of angry citizens and public transport users. “I can not understand such proposals … we could execute them too…” the Minister reportedly said.
Spirtzis indirectly asked the resignation of the OASA CEO, who was appointed to this position by New Democracy and PASOK government in December 2013. In addition, the minister accused the CEO for the tragic situation of the OASA in terms of finances, debts to the state and the insurance funds and in terms of offered services to the public.
Misdemeanor Law not new
Dimitriadis told Parapolitika FM that what he told the Parliamentary committee was “not a decision but a proposal by public transport service officials.”
Surfing through my archives, I found out that the “proposal to punish ticket dodgers with Misdemeanor Law” is not new. First attempts appeared in the media already beginning of Febraury 2011. They were dropped off after the strong public reactions.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out the Misdemeanor Law punishment is in the context of the creditors/OECD toolkits and ‘structural reforms’.
Nevertheless, the student organization of the Communist KKE party occupied the office of OASA CEO on Thursday morning.
Video: students occupying OASA office
The students told Dimitriadis to take back his proposals and also scrap some of the fines for ticket dogders, he reportedly told them that his statements “were misunderstood”.
… and “out of context”, I should add… 😛
Conclusion: with so many measures imposed in the last 5.5 years, we lost “the measure”, I’m afraid!
PS On the occasion of the OASA proposals, another sad reality is being revealed: that every omnibus bill the Parliament has to pass can turn into a platform where everyone from every sector can push his own interests.