PUNE The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) services that were interrupted for almost six months due to the strike called by employees are now back to normal with the public transport body being able to bring back 90% of its buses on state streets for the first time this year.
On April 6, the Bombay high court (HC) had directed the protesting MSRTC workers to resume duties by April 15. Since then, of the 95,000 MSRTC workers in the state, more than 90,000 workers have resumed duties till Wednesday with 12,000 out of the total 17,000 buses running on roads and the remaining 5,000 either down due to lack of maintenance or repairs.
As per the information given by the MSRTC head office, till now the highest number of employees to have resumed work are from the Pune division (8,500) while the lowest number of employees are from the Amravati division (2,986). Since the HC had directed workers to resume duties, daily workers from various departments including drivers, conductors, workshop workers and administrative staffers are back to work.
Prior to the strike which was in October 2021, daily around 17,000 buses used to run across the state and over 60 lakh passengers would travel in them while the current footfall is around 40 lakh passengers daily. The daily income of the MSRTC, according to officials, on an average was ₹20 crore which is yet to return to that level. Since the workers’ strike started on October 28, 2021, most bus operations across divisions came to a standstill, adversely impacting the revenue income of the organisation. Whereas now the MSRTC is slowly regaining its original position after a large number of workers have resumed duties.
“Since the HC instructed workers to join back, daily, workers are resuming duties but still 100% of them have not yet joined. Out of the 95,000 workers, till now around 90,000 have resumed work and our daily bus operations are also increasing day by day. It will take another one month to streamline the bus operations and workers’ duties across the state,” said MSRTC vice-chairman Shekhar Channe.
Since the past over five months, MSRTC workers and their unions have been protesting for various demands. A Kruti Samiti of unions was formed earlier to establish conversation with the state government. But apparently, the main demand of merging the MSRTC with the state government was compromised according to the workers which is why workers (apart from union members) spontaneously joined the strike. It was eventually ended after several attempts by the state transport ministry calling meetings with the workers on strike and the HC direction to the workers to resume duties.
“The pre-strike ST bus services are returning to our village. During the past five months, we had to suffer a lot while travelling. We had to pay double ticket fares to private buses and share vehicles. Now once again buses have started from Baramati to Pune but the frequency needs to be increased,” said Laxman Khatape, a passenger from Baramati.
Meanwhile, due to the increase in diesel rates in the last few months, the MSRTC has also decided to increase its charges for goods services. From May 1, one-way goods’ transportation will cost a minimum ₹500 while for two-way goods’ transportation, there will be a hike of ₹10 per km. In a bid to generate revenue from other resources, from May 21, 2020, the goods’ transportation service was started by MSRTC in the state.