Local commuters in Maximum City, Mumbai are facing a harrowing time with the strike by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply & Transport (BEST) bus employees entering the seventh day on Monday. One of the demands of the BEST workers who are on strike since Tuesday is the merger of the budgets of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the loss-making BEST. Other demands that the agitating workers are pressing for are employee service residences, gradation pay hike, wage settlement and issues pertaining to recruitments. However, no talks were held on Sunday and this might lead to overcrowding at railway stations today. While both the striking workers and commuters want chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene to end the impasse and bring relief, as per media reports, the government has not reached out to the union with any counter proposal so far.
This strike is the longest-ever in the history of BEST, with the last agitation in 1997 called off in three days. As many as 32,000 staffers from the transport wing of BEST are on a strike since January 8 and as many as 3,337 buses, including 120 double-decker buses, are off roads. As many as 8,000 employees of the electricity wing are on a strike and this could affect restoration services in case of major power cuts/outages in the city.
Mumbai: Seventh day of strike by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply & Transport (BEST) bus employees over demands of implementation of the merger of the BEST budget with principal budget of the BMC, employee service residences etc; Visuals from Dharavi BEST depot. #Maharashtra pic.twitter.com/asVYl7q8mk— ANI (@ANI) January 14, 2019
On Sunday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said his party will fulfil its promise to merge the budget of the transport undertaking with that of the BMC. The Sena controls the BMC apart from being a partner in the BJP-led Maharashtra government. The Sena had promised merger of the budgets during the civic poll campaign in 2017.
“The financial condition of the BEST has deteriorated. I had given the promise of merger of the budgets and that will be fulfilled. A solution can be found only through the talks. Even though the BEST strike issue is in the court, I am ready to be part of the discussion if necessary,” Thackeray said. He also said with the BEST facing financial troubles, unreasonable demands would create more problems.
A Sena-affiliated union had withdrawn from the strike on the second day and its leaders had claimed a minimum of 500 buses will start plying on the roads from the next day. But the claim fell flat on its face as barely any bus has run on Mumbai’s streets in the last seven days.
(With PTI inputs)