Coronavirus Outbreak: BEST staff at peril sans protection

Updated: Mar 30, 2020, 07:40 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

A large number of them are left without work, after waiting together without masks all day, for a vehicle to be assigned to them

BEST drivers and conductors are forced to wait together without masks, gloves or sanitisers, all day for buses to be assigned to them
BEST drivers and conductors are forced to wait together without masks, gloves or sanitisers, all day for buses to be assigned to them

The BEST Undertaking's transport department, which primarily consists of bus drivers and conductors, is being called to work every day during the lockdown, claims staff. A large number of them are left without work, after waiting together without masks all day, for a vehicle to be assigned to them.

According to a BEST employee, transport is the only department that has been called to work every day at its total capacity. This is unlike the 50 per cent system that some other departments have going for them, with workforce split into two, each half operating on alternate days.

"Since the number of buses plying on roads is less than the transport department's total workforce, it leaves many of us without work," the employee said.

'No masks, no sanitisers'
"There is no concept of social distancing at bus depots. Many of us wait close to each other, without masks, gloves, or hand sanitisers," he added.

Furthermore, even though AC buses have completely stopped plying, drivers and conductors who operate them on contractual basis are also being called to work — they too are left unprotected and packed into groups.

A BEST driver said that only 20 per cent of buses are currently used. "We were given masks once but they were disposable. Sanitisers are only given to the office admin employees. We are constantly in contact with each other while we wait for a vehicle. The vehicles are not being sanitised. Plus, we have been instructed to only allow government and essential services employees into buses. How do we know if any of them has tested positive?" he said.

A source from the BEST Workers' Union said that the management has not been able to mark routes that should be prioritised at a time like this, which is why more drivers and conductors are being called to work than required.

'Calling as per requirement'
While confirming that all BEST routes and all 27 depots have been functional every day, BEST spokesperson Manoj Varade said, "We have not been calling 100 per cent of the drivers and conductors to work. We have been calling staff as per requirement. There is nothing of the sort that there are too many people waiting at bus depots."

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