With reports doing the rounds once again that a BEST strike is imminent as employees are unhappy about the new work schedule, one can only hope that better sense and negotiations put a brake on that move. There has to be concerted effort to find a solution to the problem, before the service goes off the road and Mumbaikars once again face a harrowing time.
The BEST comes under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) so a strike should not be an option for them. Dialogue must start the minute rumblings are heard, not after the service has gone off the roads.
The recent strike which left so many people stranded at various points is a case in point. This service is superb, never mind all the problems. Few cities in the world can boast of a public transport service like this, which Mumbaikars can avail of except for a few hours at night, and which literally reaches every corner of this sprawling megapolis.
It was literally the jewel in Mumbai’s commuting crown, but its sheen has been dulled somewhat, given recent problems, losses and now strikes and agitations which affect the public adversely.
Just recently, when the BEST went on strike, there were problems galore on the road.
Then, there was a mad scramble for rickshaws and cabs. Taking advantage of the situation, certain rickshaws and cabs charged double the fare or simply refused to ply by meter. People who were held to ransom had no option but to cough up more money for their commute. The traffic was horrendous, with snarls at numerous junctures. The BEST has always stood for service even in tough times. Mumbaikars remember with pride, how the red buses have braved political turmoil, plying with shields on windows during riots and agitations. The drivers and staff were surely heroic and the city doffed its hat to them. Let the BEST keep that spirit and image, rather than one which holds the city to ransom with their if we do not get our way, we go off the road action.