Mumbai, Aug 7 (IANS) After holding millions of commuters to ransom on Raksha Bandhan, around 37,000 employees of the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) called off their 16-hour bus strike on Monday evening following Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray’s intervention.
The strike was withdrawn after Thackeray, who met leaders of the nine BEST employees’ unions at his residence, assured them that their demands will be met, including payment of salaries on time. BEST is run by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corp (BMC), which is ruled by his party.
He also discussed measures to restructure the loss-making BEST, besides a merger of the BEST and BMC’s budgets soon.
“Measures to restructure BEST with regard to the BMC are a manifesto for Shiv Sena and we will fulfill it,” Thackeray said after the meeting.
On Monday, Mumbaikars, including three million commuters who use BEST buses daily, faced a harrowing time as the entire fleet of nearly 3,800 buses remained in depots across the city as employees belonging to nine unions struck work.
However, the strike proved a boon for auto-rickshaws and taxis which were in huge demand.
Many unscrupulous ones made a killing, charging commuters exorbitantly even for short rides, while some commuters opted for shared cabs. Others relied on the app-based cab services.
Union leader S. Shashank S. Rao said the employees had demanded that their salaries should be paid on time and a written undertaking should be given but the BMC administration failed to provide it.
The strike also affected transport in neighbouring districts like Thane and Raigad.
Commuter M.N. Bose complained he spent Rs 200 for a ride from Kalina to Santa Cruz which normally costs around Rs 50. Senal B.U. said she paid Rs 250 to go from Kandivali to Dahisar to her brother’s home for Raksha Bandhan, compared to the usual Rs 70.
The Maharashtra State Roads Development Corp deployed its own buses in some key sectors to tackle the commuter rush while the state government permitted private buses to carry regular commuters.
Rao directed all the BEST employees to return to their duties immediately and the situation started normalising by late evening as the buses start rolling out of depots to ply on various routes.
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