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BEST strike creates chaos on Raksha Bandhan

Millions of Mumbaikars were severely hit on Raksha bandhan Day as around 37,000 employees of the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) launched a strike to press for their salary demands here on Monday. The entire fleet of nearly 3,800 BEST buses remained in depots across the city as employees belonging to nine unions stayed off duty, stranding the three million commuters who use it daily as their lifeline.

The strike proved a boon for autorickshaws and taxis which were in huge demand to ferry people going from one place to another. Many charged the commuters exorbitantly even for short rides, while others relied on the app-based cab services like Ola and Uber. The BEST Employees Union President Shashank Rao said that the employees had demanded that their salaries should be paid on time and a written undertaking should be given, but the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) administration failed to provide it.

Hectic efforts are underway with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray attempting to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, Mumbaikars paid through their nose for commutes by autos or taxis on account of the strike in different parts of the city and surroundings, as well as the neigbouring district like Thane and Raigad services by BEST’s long-distance services.

A regular commuter M.N. Bose complained he had to shell out Rs 200 for a ride from Kalina to Santacruz which normally cost around Rs 50, while another commuter paid Rs 250 to travel from Kandivali to Dahisar to her brother’s home for Rakshabandhan, up from barely Rs 70.

The Maharashtra State Roads Development Corporation (MSRDC) has deployed its own ST buses in some key sectors to tackle the commuter rush, while the state government has permitted private buses to carry regular commuters. The state government has threatened to invoke the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2011, against the striking employees.

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