Over 32,000 employees of Mumbai's civic transport undertaking went on an indefinite strike on January 8, 2019 over various demands, including higher salaries, prompting the state government to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against them. The protest by the employees of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) coincided with the two-day nationwide strike called by trade unions to protest the government's alleged anti-worker policies and unilateral labour reforms. All pictures/Bipin Kokate, Nimesh Dave and Satej Shinde
BEST trade unions had gone an indefinite strike, with various demands including the merger of the BEST budget with BMC's budget, as well as the completion of wage agreements. Since January 8 night, 10 buses were damaged by stone-pelting, and one bus driver was injured.
The BEST has a fleet of over 3,200 red-colour buses, which criss-cross the metropolis and also operate services in the neighbouring Thane district and Navi Mumbai. It is the second-biggest mode of transport in Mumbai after local trains, which ferry over 80-lakh passengers every day. BEST workers' union leader Shashank Rao said since their meeting with Mehta failed to yield any positive outcome, they were continuing with the strike. He said a final decision to end the strike depended on how the administration responds to their demands
Of the 3,204 buses scheduled for service across 27 bus depots during early peak hours, not a single bus left the depot last morning, a BEST spokesperson told mid-day
If the strike was any indication, the once-indispensable red buses won't be missed much. While a few regular commuters, particularly school and college students, were inconvenienced, trains, taxis and autorickshaws picked up most of the slack
The meteoric rise in the number of tourist taxis has made the biggest dent in BEST buses' ridership. From 8,852 T-marked cabs in 2008, the number shot up to 59,917 in 2017 — about 4,500 more than black-and-yellow taxis. Most of these are accounted for by Ola, Uber and Meru drivers. This, in addition to increased services by the Mumbai Metro and suburban railways, ensured that commuters had plenty of alternative options when the red buses did not take to the roads last morning
Students were hardest hit by the strike, with many rushing to make it to exams. With seven exams scheduled for yesterday, Mumbai University issued a statement to exam controllers to allow entry for late students, in view of the strike. Many chose to hail autos to school or college instead, but parents complained of hiked charges
There were complaints of overcharging and refusals by many auto and cab drivers across the city, but app-based cab aggregators salvaged the situation. While Ola said there was no surge pricing despite the increased demand, Uber did not issue a statement. Meru Cabs said they offered a discount of 10 per cent on the code JAN10, which will remain in operation till January 14
The Western Railway ran six additional fast and slow services, as did the Central Railway. The Mumbai Metro, too, scheduled 12 additional services. A spokesperson for state transport body, MSRTC, said they were operating additional city buses along routes such as Thane-Mantralaya, Kurla-Chembur, Dadar-Mantralaya and CSMT-Mantralaya. They ran about 123 services up and down in various parts of the city
Anoop Jagtap, who daily travels from suburban Kurla to the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) in BEST buses, had to walk two kilometres to reach his office. "I had to walk today as there were no buses and auto-rickshaw drivers were fleecing people by charging five times more than the normal rate," he alleged
Some commuters said it was always the passengers who bore the brunt of the feud between the BEST administration and its employees. "Why torture innocent passengers? What wrong have we done to BEST employees and their management?" Anita Nayak, a Ghatkopar resident, told PTI while waiting at a bus stop to get some mode of transport to reach her workplace in suburban Mulund
Shiv Kamgar Union leader Suhas Samant told mid-day, "We have decided to withdraw our moral support to the strike as the BEST administration has expressed willingness to look into various demands. The first shift of the day begins at 4 am and by 9.30 am, there will be 500 buses on the roads. About 11,000 employees affiliated to our union will resume work, and 6,000 among them are BEST transport employees."
The employees of the Mumbai civic-run transport service BEST are going on an indefinite strike beginning on January 8 midnight for various demands despite an industrial court restraining them from taking the step. Due to the strike, passengers who travel by 3000 BEST buses that ply on streets of Mumbai city and the metropolitan region every day were inconvenienced. Here's a lowdown on how commuters travelled in the city. All pictures/Bipin Kokate, Nimesh Dave and Satej Shinde
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