BMC, BEST and auto unions may add to the woes of Mumbaikars this monsoon

Jun 17, 2013, 09:03 IST | Nigel Buthello

Expect no autos and fewer buses on the streets from Tuesday as several unions led by Rao prepare to go on strike yet again; in other words, if you thought commuting was a pain in the rains, it is set to get much worse

If the incessant rains have already crippled your daily life, brace yourself. Unions in the city are all set to add to the mayhem in days to come, by going on an indefinite strike from Tuesday night. Members of different unions led by Sharad Rao - auto rickshaw drivers, BEST workers and BMC employees - have threatened to go off work.

People wait in line amid knee-deep water to board a bus. Pic/ Satyajit Desai

The unions seem to have chosen the perfect time to hold the city to ransom, announcing the strike at a time when the city is struggling to stay afloat amid heavy rain, and is in desperate need of smooth transport and civic services. If the protest materialises, services that are crucial in this season could well be crippled, with authorities washing their hands off their duties - these include bus and auto services, drainage of waterlogged areas and flooded nullahs, and water and electricity supply.

With the monsoons coming down heavily on the parched state this year, commuters are already having a tough time commuting. Though there are as many as 1.04 lakh autos in the suburbs, commuters struggle to flag them down every day, with auto drivers refusing to give rides on their vehicles, citing engine damage or waterlogged streets. Bus routes are also being altered to avoid waterlogged areas.

Demands, yet again
Auto union leaders want their drivers to earn three times their usual fares in the monsoon, in order to recover costs that they incur owing to waterlogging. “The demands made by these workers have not been met by the government, and so we are forced to take such a step,” said Rao.

Leaders claim that the Hakeem Committee’s recommendations haven’t been honoured. They insist that the auto drivers were due for a hike from May, as the report had recommended hikes in case of any rise in cost of fuel, spare parts and other paraphernalia. Officials from the RTO, however, say that there hasn’t been a substantial rise in any of these costs to merit or justify a hike.

With the city and suburbs being lashed by heavy showers over the weekend, commuters had a miserable time getting from place to place. Pics/Datta Kumbhar, Rane Ashish and Shadab Khan

The BEST undertaking, which operates over 4,600 buses in the city and supplies electricity to nearly 10 lakh consumers, is also toying with the idea of joining the stir. “What can we do if the government has gone back on its words? We avoid waging such protests during exams and festivals, but we are being forced to do so now,” said Shashank Rao, union leader and son of Sharad Rao.

The union claims that BEST workers have been demanding their arrears and bonus from the administration, but to no avail. “This strike could also affect the bus services, as drivers and conductors might join the stir,” added Shashank Rao. This could spell doom for daily commuters, for many of whom BEST buses are the only way, in face of persistent refusal from auto and taxi drivers.

If BMC workers go on strike, restoration of power in case of blackouts, which are frequent in this season, will take longer than it already does, owing to lack of manpower. The BEST administration has threatened to take stern action if their workers join the protest.

“According to an order by the industrial court dated November, 2012, the BEST Workers’ Union is restrained from indulging in any coercive action or intimidation, and depriving citizens of electricity and transport services. Workers are also not allowed to engage in unfair labour practices,” said a BEST official, requesting anonymity.

Government representatives are expected to meet Sharad Rao and other senior leaders of unions today. An internal meeting of members of the BMC Workers’ Committee, BEST Union and Auto rickshaw Union has also been called to determine the future course of action.

1.04 lakh
The number of autos plying in the suburbs

October, 2012
The last hike in auto fares, when the minimum fare rose from Rs 12 to Rs 15

99 mm
Rainfall recorded in Colaba yesterday

133.2 mm
Rainfall received by the suburbs yesterday

April 2012
The minimum fare went up from Rs 11- Rs 12

October 2012
The minimum fare went up from Rs 12- Rs 15

Go to top