Nagpur: The red ST Buses are fondly called the ‘Lifeline’ of Rural Maharashtra. However, this very lifeline has put thousands of bus passengers across Mumbai stranded as employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) went on an indefinite strike from Dhanteras, the very first day of Diwali. The employees are demanding implementation of Seventh Pay Commission. The ST bus strike entered the fourth day on Friday.
The Bombay High Court posted for hearing on Friday two public interest litigations (PILs) filed against the ongoing indefinite strike of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) staff. Justice S K Shinde, before whom the PILs were listed, said he would hear the petitions on Friday. The outcome of the hearing would decide the fate of ST strike and lakhs of commuters as well.
The indefinite strike by the MSRTC employees during a festival such as Diwali is aimed at putting the the State Government under pressure and meet their demands. The employees refused to call off the strike until the government paid heed to their demand of implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission. Over 17,000 bus are off roads across the state.
Nearly 1 lakh employees of the MSRTC are demanding Rs 5000 to Rs 20,000 hike in their salaries, besides House Rent Allowance (HRA) and other benefits according to the 7th Pay Commission. The striking employees belong to various unions such as Maharashtra ST Kamgar Sanghatana, Maharashtra Motor Kamgar Federation, Vidarbha ST Kamgar Sanghatana, Maharashtra ST Workers Congress, etc.
In Nagpur Division, ST has four depots in city and four depots in rural part. The depots are situated in Imamwada, Ghat Road, Ganeshpeth, Wardhaman Nagar in city and Ramtek, Saoner, Katol and Umred in rural parts.
According to sources, the State Government offered a proposal of a salary hike of Rs 4,000-7,000, which expected to put an additional burden of Rs 1,100 crore on the Corporation. But the MSRTC employees remained dissatisfied. “Union representatives put forth the highest-ever proposal to increase the salary. Their (pay hike) demand is so high that it is not possible for the MSRTC to accept it,” the Corporation said appealing to the striking staffers to resume duty taking in account the plight of long- distance passengers.
Meanwhile, union representatives blamed the MSRTC administration for the prevailing logjam and hardship caused to bus commuters. “As per the rule, we had given a notice for strike 40 days in advance. But the administration remained under the impression that we would accept their terms.” The corporation, however, denied the charge.