Mumbai: An onduty conductor sustained injuries when he fell off the staircase of a BEST double-decker bus on Wednesday morning. BEST committee members and BEST Union were quick to pounce and slammed the administration for its recent decision to reduce the number of conductors on double-deckers from two to one.

Fifty-year-old Sunil Gaikwad was on duty at the time of mishap on the 415 route bus, which operates between Andheri station (East) and Majas Depot at Jogeshwari (East). Gaikwad fell from the staircase while descending from the upper deck. He suffered a fracture in his left leg and was rushed to the Trauma Care at Jogeshwari.

Later, BEST committee members and union blamed the administration for the incident, alleging BEST was op­­erating double-decker buses with one conductor illegally. “BEST’s move to cut down on the number of conductors is illegal, and the management should be held responsible for the incident today,” J M Kahar, general secretary, BEST union said, adding, “The management is exploiting us. It’s impossible for a single conductor to handle the lower and upper decks.”

Congress corporator and BEST committee member, Bhushan Patil, slammed the BEST management, claiming it was oblivious of the ground reality. “Bus number 415, is packed with commuters during peak hours. It's unsafe for a single conductor to shuttle between both the decks in such a crowd. The management needs to reconsider its decision before such a mishap occurs again in the future,” said Patil.

Senior BEST committee member Sunil Ganacharya said, “In the absence of conductors, there is a risk of crimes like molestation and pick-pocketing inside the bus during peak hours. By rolling out such contentious policies, the management is not only risking the lives of the conductors, but also of passengers.”

Meanwhile, BEST officials declined comment on the issue ahead of a BEST committee meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Halving the number of conductors on double-decker buses is part of a larger plan being implemented by BEST to counter a dearth of manpower at a time when it is rolling out more bus services. On February 6, the undertaking rolled out conductor-less buses on 35 routes across the city as part of 'One man operation', launched as a pilot project earlier in November.

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Free Press Journal