Mumbai : The simmering discontent in the BEST over the new rota system surfaced on Friday morning when a driver stabbed three of his officers at Mumbai Central depot after a verbal fight over allocation of duty.
While two of them have been admitted to Nair Hospital, the third was discharged after first-aid. The driver, who himself consumed poison, is in the ICU but is said to be stable.
The new rota system has a 10- to 12-hour shift with a two- to four-hour break in the middle. Although the majority unions support the new rota, staffers struck work for two days in April. A high court-brokered settlement followed but all is not well.
Workers say they spend a lot of time away from home and that their rest rooms are pathetic. Several drivers and conductors spoken to by this reporter say their unions are pro-management. There is also a great deal of resentment against officials in general for their oppressive ways.
Shankar Mane (34), the driver, reported for duty at 6.30 am from his quarters at Chandivli. He normally drives on two routes; no 154 (Byculla to Worli) and no 91 (Mumbai Central to Kurla). He was separated from his conductor and told to take a third route, which led to an argument with the two `starters’. Mane left the depot in a huff, only to return two hours later with a sickle.
The two `starters’, Ratan Shegde (52) and Dilip Dongre (55), were sitting in their room with a third `starter’, when Mane attacked them. Shegde suffered deep cuts on his thighs and left hand fingers. Dongre suffered no cuts but had blunt injuries on his spinal cord. After this, Mane collapsed as he had consumed an insecticide.
Mane’s wife, Pallavi, said he was upset over the last one month over the new rota system.
“He used to leave at 4 am and return only by 6 pm. Our one-year-old daughter did not allow him a peaceful sleep,’’ she said.
When this correspondent reached Nair Hospital at 4 pm, BEST security guards did not allow two witnesses to speak to the media and whisked them away as soon as they finished with their police statements.
Sharad Rao, leader of the BEST Workers’ Union who visited the hospital, said: “This is an unfortunate incident. But the management is to blame for pushing the `starters’ to foist such hectic duties on drivers and conductors.’’
Asked why he supported the rota system, he said, “The Shiv Sena union had introduced this schedule. I was the one who brought down the duty hours from 12 hours to 10 hours wherever possible.’’
The BEST has not said anything on the matter except that a department inquiry would be ordered.