Thirty-year-old Hrishikesh Phatak spent more than an hour waiting for a train at Borivli station on Tuesday morning.
Phatak was among the seven million daily rail commuters who bore the brunt of the second day of the railway motormen’s strike. The strike was called off in the evening, but not before it had created enough chaos.
Many people, anticipating difficulties in getting to work, stayed home. Crowds were missing even on busy stations like Borivli, Churchgate, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Kalyan.
Attendances in offices were low. “Government offices reported only 18 per cent attendance while private offices saw around 30 to 35 per cent attendance on Tuesday,” Home Minister R.R. Patil told journalists.
But there were some who had no choice but to go to work. “I had to complete some urgent work today and wanted to be in office. I spent four hours on Monday evening travelling by a state transport bus from Churchgate,” said Phatak, a chartered accountant working for a multinational firm.
Kishore Kadam a 54-year-old engineer was waiting at Dadar station for a train to go to Virar. “ I have waiting for more than an hour,” he said. “Why does the government not meet their [the motormen’s] demands?”
Those who had come to Mumbai from other cities were left stranded. Twenty-six-year-old Anuj Kumar had come from Surat for an interview but could not make it for the appointment. “I was supposed to take a train to Andheri, but it was so crowded that I could not get in,” said Kumar.
Sunil Thakur, a 28-year-old engineer from Aurangabad, came to Mumbai on Monday morning for a meeting at Kandivli. He missed the meeting and had to spend the night at a lodge. “I was supposed to spend the night at a friend’s house at Churchgate,” said Thakur, who spent two hours trying to flag an autorickshaw on SV Road.
Autorickshaw and taxi drivers took advantage of commuters’ helplessness and hiked their fares. “When I took a rickshaw to go from Bandra to Andheri on Monday evening, I had no option but to pay Rs 250 instead of Rs 100,” said Srimantini Iyer, a financial consultant from Andheri.
The government arranged for alternative modes of transport. At least 4,400 extra buses were roped in, but fell short.
The railways organised new-age local trains with engines attached on either side. To ease commuter traffic in morning rush hours, 22 long distance mail and express trains were made to halt at all stations between Virar and Borivli and at Andheri.
Navi Mumbai and Thane were also badly hit. State Reserve Police Force personnel were posted at all railway stations in Navi Mumbai to ensure there was no trouble.
Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport (NMMT) pressed additional buses into service. “Apart from our 120 buses that were all out on the road, we operated 17 new buses on Dombivli, Kalyan, Badlapur and Ambernath routes,” Jitendra Paplkar, general manager, NMMT.
Thane Municipal Transport (TMT) plied an additional 50 buses, 30 of which were from private contractors. Several commuters from Thane had to depend on friends and car pools.
Sacked WR motormen reinstated
The 10 Western Railway motormen, who were sacked by the railways on Monday, were reinstated on Tuesday. Patil visited Churchgate station and handed over reinstatement letters to them. Patil told the motormen that the government will try to solve their problems.
Motorman Munesh Kulshrestha said, “I was in hospital and the letter firing me was sent to my home with a police escort. This was a shameful and unnecessarily threatening gesture.”