BEST joins bandh, long queues at Mumbai bus stops
Mumbai, Jan 8: Long queues were seen at the bus stops in Mumbai and commuters faced a torrid time as employees of Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) went on strike to press for several of their demands.
Although the BEST management had declared the strike illegal, only eight of over 2,000 drivers reported for work. All the 27 bus depots of BEST bore a deserted look despite internal circulars warning staffers of strict action if they join Bharat bandh called by trade unions, said reports.
News agency PTI reported citing unnamed sources that the Maharashtra government might slap Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the striking BEST employees. Police can arrest anybody violating the provisions under the law.
Some private buses are, however, plying on the roads of Mumbai to ferry the passengers, but they are said to be inadequate. Serpentine queues were seen at some of the import BEST bus stops. Auto drivers are also said to be overcharging to take undue advantage of the situation.
Central trade unions have called for a Bharat bandh against the policies for workers adopted by the Narendra Modi-led Union government. Unions have accused the government of ignoring its demands on minimum wage, universal social security, workers' status, including pay and better facilities, and guard against privatisation of public and government sectors.
Why are BEST employees striking?
BEST workers are part of a union called BEST Sanyukta Kamgar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS). Among other demands, BSKKS wants bonus equivalent to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) staffers and a merger of BEST budget with that of BMC. BSKKS has also been demanding higher grade pay for employees recruited from 2007 onwards. Samiti is also demanding resuming appointments and deliberations on new wage agreement that was supposed to come into effect from April 2016.