Commuters in Mumbai affected as BEST employees go on strike
Thousands of commuters in Mumbai faced delays on Tuesday as employees of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) went on strike to press for several of their demands.
People heading to office were seen queuing up near BEST bus stops after the strike started after midnight on Monday. Authorities allowed private buses to ferry passengers but commuters said they were inadequate.
“I have been waiting for 30 minutes. Two private buses had come but the passenger queue is just too long,” Anamika Saxena, a Ghatkopar resident, said.
Parents taking their children to schools were also seen waiting at BEST bus stops.
“I have been waiting for 20 minutes but there is no sight of any BEST bus. Autorickshaws are charging a lot. The only hope is private buses,” Amna Khan from Bandra said.
Other commuters also complained of being overcharged by auto-rickshaw drivers.
“I take a shared auto from Bandra station to BKC every day for Rs 20. Today for the same journey the auto rickshaw drivers are charging Rs 30 to 40 per seat,” said Kunal Gupta, Khar resident.
People also took to social media, saying there was less traffic on roads due to the non-operation of BEST buses and overcharging by auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers.
“@BESTMumbai thank you for being on strike traffic there is less on roads I think Maha govt should close best buses as it is running in kiss & why should Mumbikar bare your loss @CMOMaharashtra please look into thus & close BEST service asap as it is mumbaikar don’t care (sic),” tweeted a user on handle Vijay68200965.
“#BEST buses completely off roads as union has called for indefinite #strike in Mumbai. No alternate arrangements at #Kurla. Auto Ricksha charges 20,30 & 100 seat.... plan your travel (sic),” another user @mandar2005 tweeted.
BEST officials said at 7am on Tuesday there was no operation of buses in all the 27 bus depots. Out of the 2,200 drivers, only eight reported to work and one conductor out of 2,259 was present, they said. The strike has been called by BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS), a joint action committee of several labour unions.
The Samiti is demanding higher grade pay for employees recruited from 2007 onwards, bonus equivalent to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) staffers, a merger of BEST budget with that of BMC, resuming appointments and deliberations on new wage agreement that was supposed to come into effect from April 2016.
The BEST management had declared the strike illegal and issued internal circulars warning staffers of strict action if they proceeded with it.
They approached the industrial court on Monday seeking relief against the strike after talks with workers failed. The court restrained union workers from going on strike till it hears the complaint filed by BEST management.
The BEST bus service is the second largest mass transport system in Mumbai after the suburban trains.
News agency PTI reported citing unnamed sources that the Maharashtra government might slap Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the striking BEST employees. Police can arrest anybody violating the provisions under the law.
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