More than 30,000 transport workers, mainly belonging to the state transport union converged at Azad Maidan on Friday, demanding higher wages and better working conditions.
Led by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the workers participated in a two-hour march starting at the Mumbai Central state transport (ST) depot and ending at Azad Maidan, leaving thousands of commuters in ST buses across the state stranded for hours and reducing traffic in south Mumbai to a crawl.
“ST workers have long been exploited. We will not tolerate this any longer,” said Avinash Abhyankar, president of the MNS-ST union. “A substantial number of workers do not even get minimum wages and are denied basic facilities.”
But one man’s demand for rights was another’s inconvenience, with commuters, who use ST services from cities across the state such as Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur, Solapur, Satara, Mumbai and Thane, spouting a litany of complaints.
“After waiting for an hour, I finally got an ST bus, packed to the brim, going towards Thane from Nerul. I had to remain standing for the length of the journey,” said Ashwini Joshi, 27, a banker. Another disgruntled commuter, Ramesh Sharma, said it took him an hour to cover the usually short distance from Byculla to Churchgate.
Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) buses cover 60 lakh kilometres across the state every day. On Friday, services were curtailed by 3 lakh kilometres. Cancelled services were mainly from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.
“About 10-12% of bus services, both those on short and long routes, were cancelled on Friday. This also affected the daily revenue, which reduced by Rs 95-98lakh,” said Mukund Dhus, MSRTC spokesperson.
“The services were running half an hour behind schedule,” said an official from the Dadar ST bus stand.