The state government has appointed a three-member committee, headed by the chief secretary, to resolve the dispute between BEST and its striking workers, the Bombay High Court was informed on Friday.
The committee, which was to meet on Friday afternoon, will now meet on Saturday with all stakeholders, including BMC, BEST and the workers on strike since January 7 midnight. The other members of the committee included the secretaries of the urban development and transport departments, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told the division bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and N M Jamdar.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a lawyer, Datta Mane, stating that the strike is illegal and that directions should be given to the BEST workers to end the strike. Under the banner of BEST Kamgaar Samyukta Kriti Samiti, several workers’ union are at present participating in the strike.
The court directed the authorities to resolve the issue through dialogue and come up with a time-bound and comprehensive plan to upgrade the transport facility. “All stakeholders are responsible for public convenience. The city has a certain reputation.The rich can afford other means of transport, but there may have been those in the city in a medical emergency, schools, colleges, other work, who have been affected by this strike (sic),” it said.
Earlier, counsel for the BMC, Anil Sakhare, told the court that the strike was causing a loss of Rs 3 crore daily. He added that the municipal body was not averse to discussions with the workers but that it should not be done at the instance of pulling buses off the streets.
Darius Khambatta, the counsel for BEST, stated that authorities had held multiple discussions with the workers, attended by the BEST General Manager Surendra Kumar Bagde as well as BMC chief Ajoy Mehta, but by not calling off the strike, the protesters were holding the authorities at “gunpoint”.
Advocate Neeta Karnik, appearing for the workers, told the court that it was not a flash strike but that 15 days’ notice was given to the authorities.
“Any public transport across the world cannot make profit as it has to be subsidised for the benefit of the people. Our existence is at stake here. The BMC is the richest civic body in the country, it should consider the merger of its budget with the BEST. We are willing to hold discussions,” Karnik added.
While asking the workers how would it contribute to generating revenue, the court said that they should participate in reforms to upgrade the transport facility. It added that instead of going on a strike, the workers could have approached the court to seek a solution.