Mumbai: This is for the first time that a strike called by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) has been stretched to the fifth day, since all the officials and state government have failed to come up with a concrete solution to core issues — merger of the BEST budget with that of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), payscale upgrade and dues of the workers. “The strike will go on since there is no solution as yet,” said Shashank Rao, president of the BEST Workers’ Union.
The total loss incurred by the BEST so far is Rs 12 crore. In fact, now, striking workers of the transport union are getting support from the undertaking’s electricity section. Workers from this section went on strike on Thursday, with more than 50 per cent of employees remaining absent. Previously, the BMC Mazdoor Union had announced its support to the cause by threatening to go on strike from today. Now, the Mumbai Port Trust, dock and general administration unions too have decided to support the cause of the BEST workers’ strike.
Earlier on Friday, in what was an act of political mud-slinging, Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar speaking to a news channel said, “The corporation has accepted merger of the budget proposal (BEST and BMC). However, the state government has to take the final decision.” CM Devendra Fadnavis hit back saying, “The corporation (BMC) is richer than the state government.” The general manager of BEST, Surendrakumar Bagde, met the chief secretary of Maharashtra, Dinesh Kumar Jain, to discuss demands of employees and the financial condition of BEST.
At a gathering on Friday at Shirodkar Hall in Parel, Rao accused BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta of harping on the fact that BMC had no money at the meeting where their demands were discussed, the main one being merger of the two budgets of BEST and BMC. Furthermore, Rao accused the government of planning to deploy 20 BEST buses by getting private drivers to ply them. “We will not allow these buses to ply and the onus for whatever happens would lie with the corporation and the BEST administration,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court directed the state government to appoint a three-member committee to discuss grievances of BEST employees. The committee will meet Mehta, Bagde, who remained absent for a crucial meeting on Day One of the strike; transport commissioner of Maharashtra Shekhar Channe and union members of the BEST Samyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti, to discuss the demands.
In the midst of all these discussions and a court case, not a single bus plied for the fourth consecutive day, as the strike was strictly observed by the 33,000 employees of BEST. This happened even as the state advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni had assured the Bombay High Court that buses would start plying from Friday evening.