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State has 60 days to come up with anti-bandh plan

Taking a serious note of the dharnas and strikes by various transport unions that cripple the city, the state government is now calling for a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be implemented during any such eventualities.

Transport strikes
Quick fix formula: Officials claim that once there are set guidelines for handling transport strikes, the common man wouldn’t affected by the showdown. File pic

Observing the difficulties faced by the public during these strikes, authorities will initiate guidelines to necessary agencies to offset troubles, in case of a transport strike, in the city or state.

A few days back, Chief Secretary Jayant Banthia chaired a special meeting that included authorities from the transport department, officials from both Central and Western Railway, BEST, MSRTC, police department, traffic police, railway police and disaster control team.

These agencies are responsible to ensure smooth running of public transport in the city, and the meeting was held specifically to discuss steps to be taken, and coordination measures required in case of a transport strike.

“This was the first meeting. For the first time, a coordinated effort is being made at following a SOP in case of a transport strike. Presently, each department works within their designated power and it will take some time to formalise such a standard operating procedure,” said Jayant Bhantia.

Sources said that currently, SOPs in case of transport strikes are need based and are decided depending on the intensity of the strike.
But there isn’t any particular format or guidelines prescribed.

A committee having representatives from the various departments has also been created under the chairmanship of state Transport Secretary Shailesh Sharma.

“We are looking to formulating it (SOP) within the next two months,” said Shailesh Sharma.

Officials claim that once there are set guidelines for handling transport strikes, the strikes or dharnas called by auto, taxi or motormen unions would render the strikes useless, and wouldn’t affect the common man.

Railway authorities said that this was an initial meeting and the SOP guidelines would streamline the coordination among various departments.
“The SOP for tackling transport strikes would mainly look at defining clear-cut roles of different departments and clarify coordination related issues,” explained a senior railway official, on condition of anonymity.

BEST officials assert that they already have a well-prepared plan to tackle such events, though they agreed that a coordinated effort is required. “Generally, we tend to run 80-100 additional buses in high density routes during transport related strikes,” said a BEST official, on condition of anonymity.

Monday blues for suburbs
While the SOP will take some time in the making, the common man will endure travel difficulties, as the Sharad Rao led auto union has threatened yet another dharna in the western suburbs today. They are protesting against the self-righteous behaviour of police, insulting remarks by traffic cops to auto drivers, corruption in regional transport offices, and delays in work carried out by the staff there. Union leader Sharad Rao stated that the dharna will conclude at 4 pm. “We have asked our auto drivers from the eastern suburbs not to ply their rickshaws till the western suburbs,” said Sharad Rao, president, Mumbai Auto Rickshawmen’s Union. Union members claim that nearly 7,000 drivers will begin their morcha from Inorbit Mall, Malad (W) at 10 am, proceeding towards Vanrai police station, Goregaon (E), and then at 1 pm, they would meet officials from Andheri RTO.

With chaos expected, BEST officials claim that they haven’t received any intimation about this dharna from the auto union. But will run additional buses immediately when required. “We will deploy more buses into service in these areas for the benefit of people,” said a BEST official.

Meanwhile, RTO officials claim that since strikes have been banned by the High Court, the Unions are now taking the route of such dharnas to protest.

“We will take action against the rickshaw drivers if we receive a complaint on our helpline number or if people directly lodge a complaint at the RTO for refusing fare,” said a senior RTO official on condition of anonymity. Andheri RTO will also extend their work timings today by another 30 minutes to 2.30 pm.

Possible SOP guidelines
>> Train more motormen, and drivers of engines and locomotives to tackle strikes in suburban local trains
>> Additional buses to be run by BEST and state transport buses during such strikes
>> Mass dissemination of messages to public through media channels and other public information services about SOPs
>> Promoting car-pooling     

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