As BEST employees leave commuters in the lurch with their day-long protest, all eyes are now on today’s meeting at Matoshree
Private vehicles made a killing during the morning rush
Monday began on a chaotic note as about 3,800 BEST buses went off the roads during a token one-day strike by employees to push their demands. Regular commuters, many of whom were clueless about the strike call, struggled to get to their workplaces and schools.
Autorickshaws and taxis, including those affiliated with ride hail platforms Uber and Ola, seized the opportunity and jacked up fares. Many commuters claimed that there was over a 60% increase in fares of Uber and Ola. The absence of buses also resulted in larger crowds at railways stations. Private vans and buses also came to the rescue of commuters, but at a price.
Free run for cabs, autos
Shruti Limaye, 29, who works with an NGO in Chakala, said she tried to book a cab via a ride hailing platform, but was deterred by the surge pricing and long waiting period. "I had to then take an autorickshaw. Considering the high demand, many autorickshaw drivers refused to ply. I got one after five of them refused."
Bandra West: Commuters relied largely on autorickshaws to get to their destinations. Pics/ Sayyed Sameer Abedi, Satej Shinde and Datta Kumbhar
Some like Aarti Pande, 56, a banking professional who takes a bus every day from her home in Vakola to the Santacruz railway station, chose to walk, instead. "I had been sanctioned a half-day's leave for Raksha Bandhan. I had to walk to the station as no autorickshaw driver agreed to ply such a short distance. My half-day may get cancelled owing to the delay in getting to the office," she said.
Andheri: Office-goers scramble for autorickshaws outside the railway station during rush hour
BEST employees want the BMC to credit their salaries in the first week of every month (it's given on the 20th of each month), refrain from curtailing pay and allowances of employees as part of cost-cutting measures and avoid wet lease (lease buses with drivers) of both AC and non-AC buses, besides helping fund the purchase of new buses. BEST has been reeling under huge losses, with the transport wing suffering a loss of over R1,000 crore annually.
The railway station saw massive crowds
Crucial meeting today
Yesterday, after BMC chief Ajoy Mehta's verbal assurance on meeting the demands failed to get the strike call withdrawn, the BEST Undertaking warned action against striking employees under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act.
Hanumant Gophane, public relations officer, BEST Undertaking, said, all demands were agreed to at yesterday's meeting. "But they want it in writing, on which the administration will take a call today. The authorities are working on negotiations. There was also a notice about taking disciplinary action against those participating in the strike. This, too, will be decided today."
Commuters left in the lurch outside the railway station
BEST employees' union leader Shashank Rao told mid-day that verbal assurances aren't enough. "The administration claims that the demands have been approved, but they have nothing to show for it." He said a meeting will be convened at 3 pm today at Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's residence, where Mehta and the union leaders will attempt to break the impasse. "The strike was called for a day, but the future course of action will depend on how the meeting goes."
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