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Impasse over BEST strike continues

Monday, January 14, 2019
By Raju Vernekar

Govt to submit its report in the Bombay HC today; Over 300 employees served notices under MESMA; Commuters may have to face hike in bus tariff

The ongoing BEST bus strike in Mumbai continued as a meeting chaired by Maharashtra chief secretary on Saturday between striking unions and the management of the civic-run transport undertaking failed to break the impasse, even as the government was set to submit its report in the Bombay High Court on Monday.

The meeting was held after the Bombay High Court, directed the union leaders to talk with a state government committee, comprising Chief Secretary D K Jain, BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, secretaries of the transport and urban development departments and BEST General Manager Surendrakumar Bagde, to find a way to end the strike.

Jain said that the committee has listened to the unions' grievances and a report would be submitted to the court on Monday.

Over 32,000 employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) are on strike since Tuesday (January 8) and its fleet of 3,200-odd buses are off the metropolis' roads, causing severe inconvenience to several lakh commuters.

Shashank Rao, President of the striking BEST Workers' Union told  ADC that “the committee heard out to their demands but did not give any response. We put our stand before them and very clearly stated that we will not withdraw the strike until our demands are accepted, adding that the stir would proceed peacefully. By now BEST administration has served notices under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) 2011 to over 300 employees asking them to join duties immediately or else disciplinary action would be taken. We will challenge these notices,” he added.

While the stalemate continues, an upward revision in bus tariff is anticipated to cover up the cost of pay hike which is said to be in the region of around Rs 540 crore. If the employees are to be given pending Diwali bonus, pay revision from April 2016 onwards, pay fixation of 7,930 employees recruited in 2007 in 'Master Grade' and to meet other demands, the administration would require nearly Rs 540 crore.

If a proposal to hike the tariff is approved the commuters will have to shell out minimum Rs 4 to maximum Rs 12 more per ticket. Roughly the tariff hike will be: Up to 2 km (existing tariff Rs 8 proposed Rs 12), up to 4 km (existing tariff Rs 10 proposed Rs 15), up to 6 km (existing tariff Rs 15 proposed Rs 21), up to 8 km (existing tariff Rs 18 proposed Rs 25), up to 10 km (existing tariff Rs 22 proposed Rs 31), up to 12 km (existing tariff Rs 25 proposed Rs 35), up to 14 kms (Rs 28 proposed Rs 40).

Meanwhile, as announced by the School Bus Owners’ Association President Anil Garg to press into service 1,000 school buses and 1,000 other private buses to give relief to harrowed Mumbaites, some of the buses were seen picking up commuters from the bus stops, especially in suburbs.

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