Shashank Rao and Ajoy Mehta
After making Mumbaikars suffer during the day, the union of BEST buses staffers called off their strike in the evening.
What helped in ending the strike were assurances from Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, who promised the union that he would ensure their prime demand regarding their salaries is met.
Earlier, the BEST had demanded that BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta give a written assurance that salaries of employees will be paid by the 10th of the month.
Taken his word
"Even though the civic commissioner did not give us a written assurance, Thackeray stated that he will ensure the salaries of BEST employees are paid by the 10th of every month, so we have taken his word for it," said Shashank Rao, leader of the BEST workers' union.
Rao added that they wanted BMC to acquiesce that BEST was the civic body's responsibility. However, that, Rao said, "was not technically possible. Yet Thackeray has said he has a solution to BEST's problems and stressed on long-term measures. He said he would try and merge the BMC and BEST's budgets and table them in the Assembly in the winter session, which is still two and half months away. If that is passed, then all our problems would be over," said Rao.
BMC chief says
For BMC chief Mehta, "A long-term perspective is that the BEST like I have said before, must run in the interest of Mumbaikars and must run efficiently." Mehta said he too is of the opinion that, "Salaries to BEST workers must be paid by the 10th of the month, or on time. Yet, I have refused to give in to the demand asking the civic authority/chief to give the same in writing. This is not for the Corporation to give. BEST comes under another chapter in the Municipal Corporation Act."
AV Shenoy, transport activist and part of Mumbai Vikas Samiti said, "The strike being called off is a patchwork solution to a problem that has to be looked at holistically." Shenoy says once the heat and dust of this strike dies down, "Stakeholders have to sit and act now on how to bring back commuters to BEST buses. Dedicated bus lanes on arterial roads during peak hours are one way to ensure that the time factor is taken into consideration. Public transport has to be prioritized."
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