Mumbai: Around 900 Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) contractual bus drivers have approached the Colaba police station alleging that their contractors have not paid them salaries for 5 months and provident funds (PF) for 13 months. The drivers deployed in five prominent bus depots – Colaba, Bandra, Wadala, Kurla and Vikhroli – have been sitting jobless since October.
The basic salary of these drivers is Rs 18,000 per month. “They had deducted money from our salaries in the name of PF and medical expenses but it hasn't been paid to us yet,” explained a driver.
Drivers claim they have been working since 2019
According to another driver, they have been working since 2019 and were on duty even during the pandemic. “So many festivals have gone by, but forget about bonuses, we were not even received our rightful salaries,” he said.
The drivers further claimed that they have not got any assistance from any government body or the authorities in this regard. “We have approached every office. Our children are young, we are the only working members. Half of us live in rented kholis (chawls), and now we don't even have the money to pay rent or buy food supplies for the family,” said Raju Tukaram Sarvodaya, a resident of Matunga who drove BEST buses in the Bandra depot area.
Allegedly, one of the drivers who was depressed about the situation also tried to commit suicide. “He lived in Marathwada and after not getting paid for months tried to hang himself. At this point, there are no assurances we can give him,” said one of the drivers.
At present, there are 280 buses at the five bus depots lying idle as there are no drivers to ply them. The drivers say they have also written to the Chief Minister to provide assistance, but have not yet heard back; and since it's a matter related to private contractors, even the BEST authorities are not intervening, they claim.
Meanwhile, the Colaba police said that the contractor MP Ground which is located in Mulund has had its main office locked for some months and there is no information about the owners. “The main vendor is the MP group which has five sub-vendors. We have now initiated an inquiry. After getting information from the drivers we will see if this is a criminal case or a civil matter,” said a police officer. No FIR or non-cognisable offence has been registered yet, but a complaint has been registered for further investigation.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)