Mum­bai bus strike en­ters 6th day, staff at­ten­dance neg­li­gi­ble

Financial Chronicle - - FUNDAMENTALS, POLITICS -

THE BEST bus strike in Mum­bai en­tered its sixth day on Sun­day with no agree­ment in sight be­tween ag­i­tat­ing work­ers and the man­age­ment of the civic-run trans­port un­der­tak­ing.

Over 32,000 em­ploy­ees of the Bri­han­mum­bai Elec­tric Sup­ply and Trans­port Un­der­tak­ing (BEST) are on strike since Tues­day and 3200-odd buses in its fleet are off the roads. Only four driv­ers out of the 2,610 on the rolls, and none of the 2,764 con­duc­tors, were present on Sun­day which meant that not a sin­gle bus plied, an of­fi­cial said.

A meet­ing be­tween a state gov­ern­ment com­mit­tee, com­pris­ing the chief sec­re­tary, Bri­han­mum­bai Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion com­mis­sioner, BEST gen­eral man­ager and trans­port and ur­ban de­vel­op­ment sec­re­taries, and union func­tionar­ies on Satur­day had failed to break the im­passe. The meet­ing was held on the di­rec­tions of the Bom­bay High Court.

Strik­ing work­ers have been de­mand­ing the merger of the BMC and BEST bud­gets as well as higher salaries among other is­sues.

Mean­while, Vidyad­har Date, con­vener of Aam­chi Mum­bai Aam­chi BEST, a cit­i­zens' fo­rum for pub­lic trans­port, blamed the BMC and the un­der­tak­ing for the stir. He al­leged that BMC and BEST had failed to in­vest in the city's pub­lic trans­port mech­a­nism and had been en­cour­ag­ing an en­er­gyguz­zling car-cen­tric sys­tem for the me­trop­o­lis.

He said these moves had led to de­bil­i­tat­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion, wors­en­ing air pol­lu­tion and life-risk­ing over­crowd­ing on the sub­ur­ban rail net­work.

The BMC has been fo­cused on the coastal road in­stead of bus pri­or­ity lanes, pri­vate con­trac­tors in­stead of com­muters, BESTs so-called "in­ef­fi­cien­cies" in­stead of the citys wors­en­ing pol­lu­tion and con­ges­tion, and con­ve­nience of pri­vate mo­torists in­stead of safe, af­ford­able and sus­tain­able pub­lic trans­port, he claimed.

He al­leged the BEST man­age­ment looked at its bus ser­vice as an es­sen­tial one un­der the Es­sen­tial Ser­vices Main­te­nance Act only when it came to strikes, but on other oc­ca­sions, like when it wanted to re­duce fleet size, man­power, routes and in­crease pri­vati­sa­tion, it saw the sys­tem as a "non es­sen­tial" one.

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