BEST bus strike: Taxis want strike to end due to dug-up city

Mumbai: On the third consecutive day of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), not a single bus was seen on the streets of Mumbai. While lakhs of commuters are harried due to this indefinite strike called by workers of the undertaking, most still seemed clueless about demands made by the workers.According to an official, not a single bus plied on Mumbai roads since morning. As per the BEST muster, 42 bus inspectors and 17 bus drivers had reported on morning duty.

“The workers, including drivers and conductors had assembled outside bus depots and were unwilling to sign the morning muster. Four drivers reported for duty but not a single bus left the 27 depots in the city,” said an official.On Thursday morning, the administration met BEST worker’s union leader Shashank Rao, but it did not yield a positive outcome. BEST committee chairman Ashish Chemburkar said, “We will be having one more meeting with representatives of protesting staffers and are hopeful of arriving at a concrete solution since commuters are facing a problem.”

Taxi drivers for the first time seemed unhappy with the bus strike, which would have otherwise brought them more money. With the on-going Metro project and road widening/concretisation, the entire city is dug up, which taxi drivers said takes them longer than usual. “For the first time we want this strike to end and buses to ply. We are fed-up of the never-ending time it takes for one trip. There is no question of making profits,” said Umakant Tiwari, a taxi driver who has been in Mumbai for the last 30 years.

Transport experts said BEST buses are not a priority anymore to the civic administration. Ashok Datar, a transport expert said, “It is unfortunate and painful that public transport is not a priority anymore for our municipal corporation. Everywhere in the world, passengers commute by buses and not trains, however, it is the opposite in Mumbai. The comprehensive mobility plan which has 17 dedicated bus routes should be implemented immediately.”Vidyadhar Date, convener, Aamchi Mumbai Aamchi BEST, an independent forum of citizens has written to municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta stating the civic body should resolve problems faced by BEST.

Date has written, “The main demand of BEST employees is to merge the BEST budget with the annual BMC budget. This will even benefit BEST commuters. BMC had promised to fund the public transport, which is an essential municipal service.” Meanwhile, Central and Western Railway have decided to operate additional suburban trains for the convenience of commuters. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) too operated 82 additional buses on Thursday.

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