Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Monday said the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) union is not negotiating properly with concerned authorities, thereby violating the court’s orders. During a hearing, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) lawyer informed the court that demands raised by the BEST workers, who are currently on strike, will lead to an additional annual financial burden of Rs 550 crore on the municipal body.
“The demands by the workers union are of an additional burden of around Rs 550 crore per year and the current losses of the BMC are at over Rs 1,000 crore. Also, the BEST undertaking has to purchase new buses to keep itself functional. So the demands by workers union can’t be fulfilled,” the BMC lawyer told the court. “We have created a platform where the state government and BMC are ready to talk with the BEST union but they are not ready to initiate talks with us. They don’t have respect for the committees formed by us,” the BMC lawyer added.
The BEST union told the court that they are compelled to be on strike as the BEST is not ready to accept their demands even when the BMC has more than Rs 50,000 crore deposits in the bank. “BMC is not even concerned about the grievances of their 50 per cent staff who work in the BEST itself,” the union said. The BMC lawyer requested the court to intervene in the matter and ask the BEST employees to join their duties immediately. The court has asked the Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni to remain present at 3 pm to present the state government’s stand on the strike.
Earlier in the day, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) protested at the site of Mumbai Coastal Road Project under the leadership of General secretary Sandip Deshpande, demanding that the BMC should first resolve the issues with BEST on priority and then carry on with other work. Following this, the police detained some MNS workers. Around 32,000 employees of Mumbai’s civic transport have called for an indefinite strike, demanding for merging of BEST budget with ‘A’ budget of BMC. They are also seeking resolution of the issue of employee service residences and recruitment.
BEST, the lifeline of Mumbai has a fleet size of as many as 3,200 buses. It is the second largest transport system in the metropolis after local trains which ferry more than 70 lakh commuters on daily basis.