Commuters from across the state were in for a rude shock on Friday morning, when they reached their respective bus stands only to find out that workers of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) had decided to go on a flash strike. The strike comes a day after State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote announced an 18 per cent fare hike in state transport buses, citing increasing fuel prices and the financial burden due to wage revision of staffers.
While Raote said the wage revision had put an additional fiscal burden of Rs 4,849 crore on the transport body, the staffers contested his claim, saying the wage hike was “much below” their expectations, and it had “forced” them to go on an indefinite strike from Thursday midnight. Due to the strike, of the 1,110 scheduled trips of MSRTC buses from its 13 depots in Pune till 4 pm on Friday, only 200-odd trips took place.
As many as 30 per cent of scheduled trips were cancelled across the state, causing a revenue loss of Rs 15 crore to the transport body. Of its 250 depots across the state, 80 depots remained non-operational on Friday, while 145 depots were partially operational and 25 depots fully operational. Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers were stranded at the bus stands in Shivajinagar, Swargate, Pune station and Vallabhnagar.
IT professional Tanaya Jahagirdar was one of them. She had planned to spend the weekend with her parents in Aurangabad, but received a message on Friday morning, informing her that her reservation on a ST bus has been cancelled due to the flash strike. “… I am really upset as it has spoiled my plans,” said Tanaya. A group of four students, who were planning to go to Nashik to take a recruitment exam on Saturday, were among those waiting at the Shivajinagar bus stand. “Some private agents are saying they will provide a bus, with a fare of Rs 500-750, to travel to Nashik. The ST buses charge only Rs 250-350…,” said Sagar Joshi, one of the aspirants.
This is the second strike by MSRTC staffers in nine months. They had gone on a strike that lasted for four days, during the Diwali vacation in October last year, causing a lot of hardship to passengers. The strike was withdrawn after the Bombay High Court intervened in the issue, and Raote promised to set up a committee to recommend a formula for wage revision. Unlike the strike in October last year, all workers’ unions are not part of the current strike. While the ST Kamgar Sanghatana, Maharashtra Motor Kamgar Federation and Maharashtra ST Workers’ Congress are supporting the strike, some other unions, including the ST Kamgar Sena, are against it.