All out to fleece BEST commuters

Mumbai: More than thirty lakh commuters bore the brunt of the indefinite bus strike which was called on Monday midnight by the 35,000 employees of the BEST Undertaking because of their ongoing dispute with the management. On Tuesday morning, Mumbaikars found themselves stranded as several of them had no idea of the strike.

Taxi and autorickshaw drivers added to their woes with their attitude, by refusing to ply short distances or demanding exorbitant amounts to drop them at their destinations. I left home at my usual time and went to the bus stop. I was not aware of this strike and it was only after waiting for more than 15 minutes at the stop did I learn of it.

I thought I would take a cab to my office at Santacruz, but was stunned to hear the exorbitant rate quoted by the cabbie. Usually, it costs Rs 150 but today, I was told it would cost Rs 300. By this time, I was already late by an hour and so decided against going to office,” said Sheetal Sarsar, a resident of Mahim.

People heading to the office were seen queuing up near BEST bus stops after the strike began after midnight on Monday. “Like every day, I came to the bus stop in my area, but for more than 30 minutes there was no sign of any bus, so I asked a shopkeeper nearby what the matter was. He told me about the bus strike,” said Rajesh Chavan, a commuter who travels to CSMT from Lalbaug.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has decided to run 40 special buses to ferry passengers to their workplace. “Five buses ferried commuters from Kurla West to Bandra, another five from Kurla to Chembur, five from Dadar to Mantralaya, five from Panvel to Mantralaya and five other buses from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Mantralaya this morning.

Fifteen state buses were operated for office-goers from Thane to Mantralaya,” said MSRTC spokesperson Abhijit Bhosale. Though state transport buses were plying and authorities had allowed private buses to ferry passengers, commuters felt this was inadequate. “I have been waiting for 30 minutes. Two private buses have come by so far but the queue is just too long,” said an exhausted Dheeraj Jain, a Parel resident. Most commuters complained of being overcharged by taxi and autorickshaw drivers. “

It seems like taxi drivers were waiting for this moment, as they were charging 20-30 rupees extra. I take a shared taxi from Pydhonie to Charni Road station every day for Rs 15. Today, for the same journey, autorickshaw drivers are charging Rs 30 to 40 per seat,” said Radheshyam Mishra, Kalbadevi resident. Taxi drivers were charging Rs 400 for a ride from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to the Gateway of India, a ride which normally costs passengers Rs 15 to Rs 20 by share-a-taxi and is just Rs 10 by BEST bus no.112.

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