BEST strike in Mumbai Day 6: Meeting between unions, management ends in impasse; govt to submit status report in HC

The ongoing bus strike by employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) in Mumbai entered its sixth day on Sunday as a meeting between the BEST Kamgaar Samyukta Kriti Samiti — the umbrella outfit of the BEST labour unions on strike — and the management of the undertaking failed to end the impasse on Saturday.

The meeting was held after the Bombay High Court, on Friday, directed the union leaders to talk to a state government committee, comprising Maharashtra chief secretary DK Jain, Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Ajoy Mehta, secretaries of the transport and urban development departments and BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde, to find a way to end the strike.

The committee will submit a status report on the ongoing bus strike to court on Monday, with a long-term plan to reform the BEST and BMC, The Hindu reported.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

 

"Before the report is submitted in court, I cannot reveal the minutes of the meeting," Jain said.

Over 32,000 BEST employees have been on strike since Tuesday, 15 January, and its fleet of 3,200-odd buses have been off the roads of the metropolis, causing severe inconvenience to several lakh commuters. The union has yet to receive any written proposal from the BEST management to address the concerns of the workers on strike.

"We put our stand before them and very clearly stated that we will not withdraw the strike until our demands are accepted," said Shashank Rao, president of the BEST Workers' Union on strike. He added that the stir would proceed peacefully.

The workers on strike have demanded that the Maharashtra government direct BMC to financially "adopt" the transport undertaking to bail it out from its financial woes, The Times of India reported. The workers have also demanded that Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis intervene in the matter.

The newspaper quoted sources as saying that BMC officials were not entirely against the merger of the BEST and civic budgets. But if the BMC — the country's richest civic body with over Rs 63,000 crore in fixed deposits —  "adopts" BEST financially, it will have to bear a cash flow deficit of over Rs 9,700 crore in the next five years to bail out the transport undertaking, civic officials said. Representatives told the committee told the committee that the BMC is no position take on the extra burden.

Two other ideas are under consideration to generate the revenue to fulfil the demands of the unions on strike, The Asian Age reported. These include privatisation of BEST and leasing BEST buses to private firms. The BMC chief believes that partial privatisation of the BEST transport arm alone can save the undertaking.

On Saturday, which marked the fifth day of the strike, the School Bus Owners' Association deployed a total of 2,000 private buses in Mumbai. "As many as 1,000 school buses and 1,000 private buses" were deployed to "provide services to passengers in light of the strike by BEST bus employees", Anil Garg of the School Bus Owners' Association had said.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2019 11:07:38 IST

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