BEST employees began the indefinite strike on Tuesday over various demands, including higher salaries and merger of the budget of the loss-making undertaking with that of the BMC.
With the strike by the 32,000 staffers of Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) continuing into the third day, experts have criticised the state government for not doing enough to revive the iconic Mumbai transport operator.
In an interview with the Mumbai Mirror, transport analyst Hussain Indorewala said the government has spent thousands of crores of car-centric projects such as Eastern Freeway or Bandra Worli Sealink.
"It should also consider investing in BEST, which has served lakhs of commuters for generations.”
About a decade ago, BEST ferried about 45 lakh commuters daily. However, due to reducing the frequency and increasing traffic, the ridership at present is just 25 lakh commuters per day.
“There are just 7.5-9% car users in the city while a bus’s carrying capacity is equivalent to 8-9 cars. Why can’t the state help revive this once glorious transport body and invest in better quality service and infrastructure?”, asked Indorewala.
Vidyadhar Date from the NGO Aamchi Mumbai, Aamchi BEST - A NGO working towards reviving BEST, said, “BEST bus is important for every Mumbaikar, and many have good memories travelling on red buses for decades”.
Another expert said that the state needs to invest in high-tech low-emission buses by providing grants to make up for losses. The state-run MSRTC which runs the ShivShahi fleet of AC buses is faring well. Maharashtra government had also experimented with a small scale of hybrid electric buses which cost Rs 1.7 crore each.BEST panel member Ravi Raja said the state could subsidise BEST, which help less curtail losses and loans amounting up to Rs 2,500 crore.On Day 2 of the strike, the BEST administration had already initiated the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) and issued notices to few workers to vacate their flats given by the BEST. The strike has been declared “illegal” by the industrial court and administration has requested the BEST staffers to go back to work. Meanwhile, both, Central and Western railway have started additional services for the convenience of commuters.