Their annual gathering morphed into a bring-your-own-bottle dance party in the afternoon yesterday, minutes after ministers Sharad Pawar, Sachin Ahir and Harshavardhan Patil left the Kharadi venue after hearing their demands
Beer bottles in their hand and moves to match the blaring music, the State Transport (ST) union workers gathered to celebrate the golden jubilee of their annual gathering at Kharadi last afternoon were a picture of rowdiness.
A sober start: Earlier in the day, NCP chief Sharad Pawar addressed the crowd, which was sober. Pics/Mohan Patil
The flashy side came to the fore only after senior politicians like Union minister Sharad Pawar and state ministers Harshavardhan Patil and Sachin Ahir left the venue after addressing the crowd.
The Maharashtra ST Kamgar Sanghatana had organised its 50th annual meet near the IT Park in Kharadi-Chandannagar on Sunday.
Cheers and beers: The workers opened the bottles and (left) put some wild moves on inside the marquee around 1.30 pm yesterday
More than 50,000 workers from across the state showed up for the gathering, where Pawar was the chief guest, and Ahir and Patil were the other high-ranking political invitees.
At the start of the event, the workers had made several demands, which were declared in all sobriety in the presence of the senior political leaders.
But the gathering soon devolved into a raunchy celebration around 1.30 pm, after the departure of the high-profile politicians. Some workers had a bit too much to drink and passed out.
Though MiD DAY captured the alcohol-induced merrymaking on camera, Hanumant Tate, general secretary of the ST workers union, denied that any such carousing happened at the venue. "Nobody pointed out any such incident. Our ST workers won't indulge in such acts," he said.
Hanging out to dry: After the drinking session, a few workers spread out in the sun
Dilip Parab, secretary of the Pune unit of the union, told MiD DAY that the organisation had not sponsored any drinks for the workers. "More than 50,000 workers from across the state had participated in the meet.
They come every year to attend this function and celebrate just like a carnival is celebrated in villages. If the act of our workers has caused inconvenience to local citizens, we apologise for it."
Parab then outlined the demands made by the workers. "We have made several demands of the government, so we can improve the quality of service provided to citizens.
A worker swings a bottle just outside the venue
If the passenger tax is reduced and toll is waived off for ST buses in the state, that amount could be utilised for providing commuter-friendly services."
"The revenue earned by waiving the taxes and toll can be utilised for procuring additional buses and hiring additional staff," said Tate, general secretary of union.
Others have the alcohol with their lunch
While addressing the gathering, NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said, "The demands made by the ST workers are genuine and the government will look to resolve the issues.
We will organise a meeting regarding these issues with the chief minister in the presence of the minister of state for transport, Sachin Ahir."
Expressing faith in Pawar's assurance, Parab said, "Every time Pawar Saheb promised us something, he has delivered." He added, "Even Sachin Ahir has assured us that he would mediate with the government for fulfilling our demands."