Long queue at a bus stop in Vile Parle.
Long queue at a bus stop in Vile Parle.
BL Soni

The sudden power outage left Mumbaikars stranded and struggling to commute on Monday. As the maximum city blacked out, suburban railway services came to a halt. This added to the pressure on the already overburdened BrihanMumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking buses.

Essential service providers, who are permitted by the state government to board locals, were forced to board buses in order to reach their workplace. Longer queues were seen at the bus stops as a result and the buses failed to cater to the increase in demand. "People became aggressive and forced themselves in. All of them were in a hurry, as train services had halted and they had to reach their workplace at any cost," a bus driver at Mumbai Central bus depot told the Free Press Journal.

The fact that BEST is operating its buses at 50 per cent capacity of their capacity angered passengers further. Agitated commutters got inside and were reluctant to get down. "We had no option but to ferry overcrowded buses. Social distance went for a toss on Monday," he added.

BEST had pressed a total of 4,087 buses in Mumbai on Monday, including 500 buses of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), which the undertaking has procured on lease.

A BEST depot manager stated that most of the passengers who became aggressive were either government employees or essential service providers. "Many from the BEST staff were also stuck in different parts of the city. In my depot, five employees failed to report to duty on Monday," the manager added.

Though BEST buses are plying at 50 per cent of their capacity, state-run buses are operating at full seating capacity. Commuters blamed the BEST management for the unplanned approach. They said that the undertaking should have started running its buses at full capacity by now.

"Will the pandemic not affect the buses of the MSRTC undertaking? The restriction on the sitting capacity is a sign of negligence of the management towards the commutters," said Prasad Dalvi, a banker, who had to alight from the train at Andheri and board a bus to travel to his office in Juhu.

"Not a single bus route is following the 50 per cent rule during the peak hours. Some drivers are using it as an excuse and skipping bus stops," said Mahesh Joshi, a government employee.

Passengers also stated that the compulsion of reporting to duty in public offices led to such pandemonium. "Transportation services are limited, but we are being told to report to work everyday. This type of unlocking is only causing problems to us," said another government employee requesting anonymity.

Some employees were also stranded in the middle of their journey and had to return back home midway. "Our train stopped when we were between Goregaon and Jogeshwari. We had to walk on the tracks till the highway. But there was a long queue at the bus stop and the frequency of buses were really low. I decided to go back home," said Sunil Shinde, a Kandivali resident.

"The queue at bus stops were longer than usual on Monday. I had to stand in a queue for three hours and was forced to go back home," said Vinayak Sathaye, a private sector employee.

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