A tragedy is unfolding in Mumbai, with the first-ever longest public transport strike entering the fifth day.m Even as major chunks of the city and its suburbs remain dug up, ‘for a better tomorrow’, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking workers are struggling for survival. Worse still, most citizens who depend on this second lifeline of Mumbai, could hardly give a damn for the cause of this strike. Most are worried about their pockets being pinched, shelling out for auto rickshaws and taxis, whose refusals and insults they must take in their stride on a daily basis.
While politicians and ‘babus’ take pride in saying the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the richest civic body in the country, it is time they introspect on how it is that the corporation’s transport section is haemorrhaging! It is no surprise the transport wing is a loss-making one. Most public transport undertakings across the globe are not profitable, but none are in as shabby a state as our BEST.
There are other fears expressed by workers like the phasing out of jobs and buses and discontinuation of routes. Even as BEST officials complain of being cash-strapped, they dole out subsidies to different sections of society. Many beneficiaries of this BEST largesse are employed journalists, who are State-accredited and are members of the Mantralaya ani Vidhi Mandal Vartahar Sangh.
And to top it, Mumbai’s destiny is her politicians who don’t seem to care for her. Shiv Sena, the ruling party in the BMC and an ally in the state and the union government, is busy merrily targeting its partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, at every given opportunity.
It has now outclassed itself. First, their party representative, Ashish Chemburkar, is the chairman of the BEST committee, while Suhas Samant is the Sena Kamgar Union leader. At first, both first participated in this strike only to withdraw a day later, under the pretext of supporting Mumbaikars.
For the past three decades, the Sena has held sway over the BMC. How have they allowed the transport section to be crippled thus? Such lies will only put Sena in the dock. One can only hope citizens see through their devious games and think twice before bringing them back to power in the civic body.
We have to wait a few years for metro services, which will definitely help commuters, but surely, it cannot come at the cost of the BEST buses. Rumours have been doing the rounds that the metro will replace the buses and that the BEST will be privatised. Many activists have expressed these fears, which the authorities have rubbished. There is however, quite a chasm between the authorities’ intent and action.