KEEPING BUS services off city roads for 16 hours Monday, the unions of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) ended their strike only in the evening after Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray assured them of disbursing their salaries by the 10th of each month. The Sena will take responsibility of the smooth functioning of the bus utility, Thackeray said. The strike came in effect from Sunday midnight, after which over 3,500 BEST buses were not available for passengers. With Raksha Bandhan falling on Monday, Mumbaikars complained of a specially tough commute.
“I wanted to travel from Girgaum to Jogeshwari to meet my sister. Though private buses were available, they were crowded. It is sad how public transport fails to provide services when we need them the most,” Gurudas Shirke, a commuter, said.
“I have a BEST bus pass to travel anywhere in the city. Still, I was made to pay for the ticket of the ST bus. This is not acceptable,” said Surinder Singh, who wanted to reach Mantralaya from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. On Monday afternoon, Thackeray met the unions at his residence, and heard out the concerns of the members. While speaking to the press, he expressed disappointment over the problems faced by commuters due to the strike.
“Uddhavji has assured us that they will moot a proposal to merge the budget of BMC and BEST. After the proposal is made, a due process will be followed for that amendment. A government resolution in that regard could also be passed,” K S Ahire, general secretary, BEST Kamgar Union, said.
The unions had called the strike against the delay in their salaries. Though they were assured of payment on time by the mayor and the BEST GM on Sunday evening, they had asked for a written confirmation from Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta. Till Monday evening, no such confirmation was given by the commissioner to the unions. Though the strike was called off Monday evening, certain depots in the city, including those at Malad, Gorai, Poisar, Magathane, Santacruz, Dindoshi, Oshiwara and Goregaon, did not resume services till the later hours of the day. A bus that did run was attacked by some workers at Ghatkopar depot on Monday evening.
“That would be the work of one of the unions which did not pledge its support to the strike but had to refrain from being in service on Monday. The nine unions of the undertaking played no part in it,” Ahire claimed. On Monday morning, four other buses were attacked by some miscreants. BEST officials confirmed those were buses for staff and no one was hurt. “We are happy that commuters are yet again benefited by the BEST services. We will abide by the promises given,” a senior BEST official said.
Meanwhile, Railways provided extra services and kept additional ticket counters open to address the rush.