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Mumbai bus strike enters 6th day, staff attendance negligible

Mumbai | The BEST bus strike in Mumbai entered its sixth day Sunday with no agreement in sight between agitating workers and the management of the civic-run transport undertaking.

Over 32,000 employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) are on strike since Tuesday and 3200-odd buses in its fleet are off the roads. Only four drivers out of the 2,610 on the rolls, and none of the 2,764 conductors, were present Sunday which meant that not a single bus plied, an official said.

A meeting between a state government committee, comprising the chief secretary, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation commissioner, BEST general manager and transport and urban development secretaries, and union functionaries Saturday had failed to break the impasse. The meeting was held on the directions of the Bombay High Court.

Striking workers have been demanding the merger of the BMC and BEST budgets as well as higher salaries among other issues.

Meanwhile, Vidyadhar Date, convener of Amchi Mumbai Amchi BEST, a citizens’ forum for public transport, blamed the BMC and the undertaking for the stir. He alleged that BMC and BEST had failed to invest in the city’s public transport mechanism and had been encouraging an energy-guzzling car-centric system for the metropolis. He said these moves had led to debilitating traffic congestion, worsening air pollution and life-risking overcrowding on the suburban rail network.

The BMC has been focused on the coastal road instead of bus priority lanes, private contractors instead of commuters, BESTs so-called “inefficiencies” instead of the citys worsening pollution and congestion, and convenience of private motorists instead of safe, affordable and sustainable public transport, he claimed.

He alleged the BEST management looked at its bus service as an essential one under the Essential Services Maintenance Act only when it came to strikes, but on other occasions, like when it wanted to reduce fleet size, manpower, routes and increase privatisation, it saw the system as a “non essential” one.

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