Thousands of commuters staged a protest before the Nallasopara bus depot on Wednesday at 5am, demanding that the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) resume bus services with immediate effect. The MSRTC had cancelled bus services on 14 of 48 routes managed by the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation on January 1, leaving scores of commuters in the lurch. The body said it had incurred huge losses owing to these services.
However, bowing to public pressure, the MSRTC agreed to restart the services till 31 March, after which, the Vasai-Virar Municipal corporation is expected to take over.
The protest, called ‘ST Bachao Andolan’ was conducted under heavy police bandobast,so as to avoid any untoward incidents — such as stone-throwing — that would damage ST buses parked at the depot.
“The MSRTC has been running these services for the past 61 years. The decision to suddenly suspend these services was unjust, as scores of commuters — including vegetable vendors, fishmongers, schoolchildren, employees travelling from Vasai-Virar to Mumbai — were hit,” said Rajan Naik, an activist from Vasai.
“Residents of Navghar, Vasai, Rangaon, Bhuigaon, Umela, Ghas, Koliwada, Papdi, Nirmal, Arnala, Vatar, Satpala, Nala, Wagholi, Nirmal, Holi, Rajodi, Parnaka, Vasai village, Umbargothan, Agashi and other rural areas were badly affected,” said Naik.
The BJP Vasai unit had even met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday to ask him to urge state transport minister Diwakar Raote to resume the services.
“On Tuesday, we even met CM Fadnavis, along with Vishnu Savra, minister for tribal development and guardian minister for Palghar district. We had asked Savra to urge the CM to intervene and request Diwakar Raote to cancel the order issued by the Transport Ministry, but unfortunately, even the CM could not help us. We hence had to stage the protest”,said Naik.
The protest included members of all political parties, excluding the Shiv Sena, of which Raote is a member.
Abhijeet Bhosale, public relations officer, MSRTC, Mumbai division, said the MSRTC had incurred heavy losses operating the services. “We had to suspend services on 14 routes, as the VVMC had been servicing only 34 routes and not all 48 routes falling under its jurisdiction. We had asked the VVMC to start intra-city bus services and even sent them letters, but they refused. Now, we have agreed to run the services till 31 March. We expect the VVMC to take over from April 1,” said Bhosale.
Satish Lokhande, VVMC commissioner, said, “The MSRTC had asked us to start intra-city bus services. We asked the body if we could rent its depots so that we could park our buses there, but have not received a reply yet. We want to start intra-city services, but do not have enough buses,” said Lokhande. “Currently, VVMC buses are run by a private Borivli-based operator. We will take over city bus services from 1 April,” said Lokhande.