The ongoing strike by hundreds of employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) intensified on Tuesday. The development, however, spiraled into trouble for suburban rail commuters. On November 9, the railway passenger associations jointly wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asking for train travel permission for even those who have taken only their first dose of the Covid vaccine.
The associations have said that the statewide strike by MSRTC employees has affected those traveling from different parts of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region like Kalyan-Kasara/Karjat, Navi Mumbai, and Vasai-Virar.
The strike entered its 14th day and almost all 250 MSRTC bus depots across Maharashtra are shut. This is causing immense trouble for people wanting to travel for work but isn’t allowed in local trains as they are not fully vaccinated.
Nandkumar Deshmukh, president of the Federation of Suburban Rail Passengers Association said the strike has eliminated the option of traveling by bus.
“This is leading to a lot of inconveniences and so we have demanded that people vaccinated with the first dose be allowed to travel in local trains,” he said.
The letter recounts the plight of people struggling to get to work without proper mode of transport. It states that taking private transport is expensive as the cost of petrol and diesel is prohibitive for most.
Until Diwali, nearly 30-45 MSRTC bus depots were shut due to the protest. Since Monday, the strike has intensified and almost all bus depots, barring two to three in Kolhapur and Igatpuri, are now shut. This comes at a time when the High Court has intervened and a three-member government committee has been formed to look into the demand of employees.
Manohar Shelar of Upnagriya Railway Pravasi Sangh, who has jointly signed this letter, said, "People are not demanding money from the state government, but only permitted to travel in local trains.”
The letter also questions the logic of allowing youngsters under the age of 18 years to travel in local trains without vaccination. It states that the decision to not reduce the duration between the two doses of the Covishield vaccine is also taking away the chance from people to travel by train.
Meanwhile, school and private bus operators have been allowed to operate on MSRTC routes. Permission has been given under subsection 3(N) of section 66 of the Motor Vehicle Rules 1988. The permission will automatically stand canceled once the strike is called off.
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