It has almost become a habit for Sharad Rao (in pic) and his legions to threaten strikes, and then call them off at the eleventh hour. By Rao’s own admission, it is ‘just another tactic of unions to get their work done’. Lakhs of people held their breath today, after several unions under the leader comprising BEST, BMC workers and auto drivers announced a strike from the stroke of midnight on Tuesday. But Rao yet again called off the strike.
The announcement for the cancellation was made after a meeting with Minister of State for Transport Sachin Ahir, State Transport Secretary S K Sharma and Transport Commissioner V N More. “As of now, there won’t be any fare hike for auto rickshaws. The Transport Commissioner’s office will study the calculation given by the union. It was unreasonable of the union to call for strike again only to get their work done,” said S K Sharma, state transport secretary.
Rao accepted that the strike was also called to send out a message to Shiv Sena. The party has its own unions in BEST and runs the BMC. According to Rao, the party has been preventing the payment of arrears and bonus to workers. Referring to demand for minimum fare revision to Rs 16, Rao said, “We have submitted the reasons and calculations from which we have derived the calculation. The state government chiefly the transport department is expected to go through it in a week and give their view.
Some of the factors to be considered are prices of fuel, increase in cost of living and rise in price of spare parts. Asked about the frequent refusals from drivers, leaders defended the practice, saying that driving in waterlogged areas harms their vehicles. They added that this is the basis for their demand for a separate set of fares for the monsoons, keying in higher maintenance costs of vehicles. Rao also spoke about the arrears and bonus owed for workers of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), which amounts to Rs 300 crore. “These arrears are to be paid since 2005, and are the right of the workers,” said Sharad Rao.