Many contractual workers of the Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL) went on a strike, affecting Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) stations on Tuesday. About 30-35% taxis and auto rickshaws remained off roads because of the unavailability of CNG, causing troubles to commuters.
The strike affected BMC’s garbage trucks too.
Over five lakh vehicles, including BEST buses, taxis and auto rickshaws, ply on CNG fuel in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Of those, 3.3 lakh are in Mumbai. If the strike continues, more vehicles will go off the road, further worsening the situation.
“Around 35% auto rickshaws remained off roads because there was no CNG to fuel the vehicles. Several others were forced to spend hours in serpentine queues at CNG stations. If the strike continues, the situation will worsen,” said Shashank Rao, leader of Mumbai Taximens and Autorickshawmens Union.
According to sources, MGL appointed over 500 compressor operators to ensure smooth supply of the fuel at every CNG pump through separate contractors in the MMR. Their main work is to manage the fuel supply and every pump has at least three operators in shifts.
The compressor operators managing the CNG stations on BEST premises have also gone on strike. It could have brought hit lakhs of commuters, but BEST officials said that MGL immediately managed to send alternate staffers for their pumps.
Confirming this, Hanumant Gophane, public relations officer of BEST, said, “Our buses were unaffected as MGL had replaced the contractual staffers with its own staffers.”
MGL operates 190 CNG pumps across the city and of those, 130 are in Mumbai. According to compressor operators of the three unions representing them, the ongoing strike was called by the Maharashtra Navnirman Kamgar Sena, though the union claimed no responsibility for the strike.
Rahul Gaikwad, leader of the compressor operators said they were striking for their long pending demands that included salary hike and better facilities. “We will continue to strike till the time our demands are being meet,” he said.
Initially, the MGL, through an official statement, claimed that a group of miscreants had forcibly stopped operations of nearly 90 CNG stations across Mumbai since Tuesday morning. It was able to resume operation at all pumps by 2.15pm, through internal resources and police help.
Sources said that most CNG stations in south Mumbai and other parts of the city were shut. All the pumps witnessed long queues.
“I was standing in queue outside a CNG pump in Worli since 7am. Some drivers said that pumps at Lalbaug were working so I came here at 2pm. But, the pump here are shut too,” said Badri Jadhav, 32, a taxi driver.
“We are getting an in-hand salary of Rs 11,000 after PF and other deductions and it has been unchanged for three years now. With with the increased inflation, it has become difficult to manage with so less,” said an operator at a CNG station in south Mumbai.