Thousands of people residing in rural Maharashtra bore the brunt as employees of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) continued their protest for the 19th day on Friday. As private bus operators capitalised on the strike, people who travel regularly on the Mumbai-Pune route also paid the price.
For the ease of commuters, the MSRTC managed to operate less than one per cent of its buses from November 12. 131 buses were on the road on Friday and 3,517 passengers availed the services. Due to the limited number of transport options available, the residents of the interior parts of the state are shelling out double the amount they normally would.
Meanwhile, as a disciplinary action, the MSRTC on Friday terminated 238 daily wage earners and suspended 297 employees. The total number of employees suspended so far is 2,776.
Employees who continue to be on strike said that they have no other option left. “I have a family of six people, and I am the sole earner. My salary is Rs.15,000, which was also delayed throughout last year. The employees are suffering a lot and nobody is doing anything,” said Abhijit Dhamle, a driver at the Satara bus depot.
The Maharashtra government has formed a three-member committee to look into the demands of the employees that include merger of the MSRTC with the state government, increase in salary, dearness and housing allowances.
State Transport Minister Anil Parab had earlier asked the employees to return to work and has now stated that other options including privatisation of the corporation, is possible.
“We have not decided on privatisation of MSRTC but it is our responsibility to operate bus services. We have kept all our options open as we do not want the commuters to suffer,” said Parab.
However, the MSRTC unions alleged, “The privatisation agenda has always been there. It is more important now to make the MSRTC employees state government employees. We will continue the agitation till the demands are met,” said Shashank Rao, coordinator, Sangharsh ST Kamgar Union.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attacked the government over the issue. “The issues of employees need to be addressed first and then privatisation of the corporation can be talked about. Anil Parab is a son of a worker and should look into the issue,” said Prasad Lad, vice president of Maharashtra BJP.
Senior citizens travelling for medical purposes are not able to find vehicles as well.
“We wanted to commute for our regular diabetes check-ups. MSRTC buses charge Rs. 50 with the senior citizen concession. As the charges of private vehicles are exorbitant, senior citizens, who want to visit hospitals are going as a group and dividing the charges,” said Komal Yevle, a 62-year-old resident of Kopar Khairane in Thane district.
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