Over 32,000 employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) are on strike since Tuesday last week where 3200 odd buses are off the roads. Striking workers are demanding the merging of BEST’s budget with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the former’s parent body, as well as higher wages. Talks over the strike in last week between a state government committee led by the Maharashtra chief secretary and striking BEST unions have failed to break the impasse.
The Nationalist Congress Party and Aam Aadmi Party on Monday questioned the motives of the ruling BJP-Sena and asked why the strike had been allowed to linger on for a week now. The BEST bus strike has entered its seventh day in the metropolis where an official of the civic-run transport undertaking expressed the hope that a High Court hearing later in the day will give any solution to this unending issue.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik on Monday said that the BEST strike enters 7th day to promote wet leasing of buses to benefit Shiv Sena leaders. Similar ploy was played in MSRTC buses. Shiv Sena should clarify how many buses belong to their leaders. The BJP will also hand over electric supply to their friend Adani. Shiv Sena and BJP are holding Mumbaikars to ransom to benefit their leadership.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Preeti Sharma Menon, while expressing her party’s support to BEST’s striking workers, alleged that the state government was “anti-labour. We support the demands of the strikers and are shocked that the government is unaffected by the longest BEST strike ever. This government is anti labour. It had also turned a deaf ear to the MSRTC’s (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation) strike last year.
Meanwhile, a senior BEST official said that we have pinned our hope on the Bombay High court which is due to hear this case on Monday afternoon. With HC intervention, we are hopeful an agreement will be reached today.
Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke over phone with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to find a solution to the bus stir. The telephonic conservation between Fadnavis and Thackeray took place after a meeting on Monday in Mantralaya between striking BEST union functionaries and the state chief secretary D K Jain failed to break the deadlock.
Thackeray has already said that his party will fulfill a promise to merge the budgets of the BMC and BEST. Meanwhile, the commuters continued to suffer with auto rickshaws, taxis as well as private and state transport buses unable to cope with the daily passenger load catered to by BEST.
Kandivali-resident Shrinivas Tambe (50) said, “I have to travel over two-and-half kilometres to reach office. It seems the authorities in power are supporting the strike or else it would not have gone on for such a long time. I suspect the government will shut down BEST once more metro routes are operational.