Apart from keeping mediapersons guessing and Mumbaikars anxious, news of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s deteriorating health, which has been doing rounds since Wednesday night, took its toll on the city’s public transport system.
Since Wednesday night, the number of autos and buses going towards Bandra and the Western Express Highway (WEH) dropped considerably. To make matters worse, thousands of Shiv sainiks, who gathered outside Thackeray residence, Matoshree, in Kalanagar, aggravated traffic woes on the WEH.
As dawn approached, stray incidents of violence were reported from the city. Between 6 am and 7 am, three Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) buses were damaged by Shiv sainiks, who pelted stones at the vehicles. Of the three buses, one was targeted on Lalbaug flyover and the second one was damaged in Jeevan Nagar in Andheri (W). Both incidents occurred simultaneously.
“Another bus was damaged and its windows were broken by the unruly crowd that hurled stones at the bus in Sion Koliwada at 2 pm,” said a BEST official.
Soon after the incidents of vandalism occurred, the undertaking took a cautious approach and reduced its fleet of 4,700 buses by 30 per cent. In fact, services on all the routes were called off for a brief period of time.
Just like the BEST buses, even autos and taxis stayed off the roads. Mumbai Taximen’s Union General Secretary A L Quadros said, “More than 85 per cent of taxis weren’t on road.” About 42,000 taxis operate on city streets daily.
Similarly, 75 per cent of the 1.06 lakh autorickshaws remained off the city streets.
“Generally, several drivers take an off for Bhau Beej. But the news from Matoshree further affected the numbers. Fearing untoward incidents, auto drivers stayed off the roads,” said a senior rickshaw union leader.
A railway official, requesting anonymity, said number for prepaid taxis at stands outside railway stations had dipped drastically. “In fact, we hardly saw a couple of taxis at the stand,” the official said. There are prepaid taxi stands near major railway stations — CST, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Bandra, and Kurla LTT. The official added that railway authorities, citing poor presence of autos and taxis, requested the BEST administration to run extra services to facilitate commuters.
Western Railway (WR) chief PRO Sharat Chandrayan said the number of rail commuters was down by 50 per cent. Even the Central Railway (CR) officials said the trains were sparsely crowded.
Madhu Kotian, a member of Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, “While the second class compartments were partially empty, there were hardly five to six people in the first class.”
Just like public transport, most private vehicles remained off the roads as well. At business hubs like Nariman Point, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Lower Parel and others, only a limited number of office-goers were spotted taking the public transport.
Did you know?
70 lakh people travel by train (WR and CR) daily
55 lakh people travel by taxis and autos
40 lakh people use BEST buses daily