Maharashtra: In absence of trains, BEST buses continue to run packed

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Written by Iram Siddique | Mumbai | Published: June 10, 2020 2:39:25 am

BEST is the second largest public transporter in the city after the suburban train services. (File)

Offices might have opened to only 10 per cent of their staff strength, but the absence of suburban trains was telling in the rush for the limited BEST bus services for the second consecutive day. Office-goers stood in serpentine queues and jostled to get a foot on the buses.

BEST ran only 2,308 buses due to shortage of staff. According to BEST officials, 4.19 lakh passengers travelled on tickets on Monday, and the same number was recorded on Tuesday. Additionally, three lakh essential service providers, who have been using bus services on special passes, took the total number of commuters to about seven lakh.

BEST is the second largest public transporter in the city after the suburban train services. The suburban trains that transport 75 lakh people daily have remained suspended since March 22, when the lockdown began. Of a fleet of 3,500 buses, BEST had scheduled about 2,500 buses, of which it could only operate 2,200 on Monday, improving it marginally on Tuesday to about 2,300.

Officials said low attendance of drivers and conductors was a factor. Only 16,000 showed up for work against the staff strength of 20,500. In the past week, BEST management has issued chargesheets to at least 1,200 of its transport department employees and another 500 to its engineering staff for not reporting to work.

Apart from this, at least 1,500 employees with co-morbidities and over 55 years old have been given leave. A senior official from BEST said,

“We are hoping that employees will return to work in the next few days and by Friday the operation fleet strength will increase substantially.”

The BEST unions under the umbrella organisation, BEST Sanyukta Kamgaar Kruti Samiti (BSKKS), have called for a silent protest outside the BEST depots from June 11. The employees after their duty hours will assemble to mark their protest against the management’s decision to issue chargesheets, while maintaining social distancing.

“Several employees live in containment zones and in far flung suburbs where they have to walk ten-odd kms to reach the highway to get a BEST bus to reach work. These people who couldn’t resume work have been issued chargesheets and we strongly oppose it,” said Shashank Rao, general secretary of BSKKS.

The unions have accused the BEST management of not disclosing the actual number of deaths of employees due to Covid-19.

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