As many as 796 of the more than 1,600 buses wet leased by Mumbai's civic transport utility BEST remained off roads on Monday as drivers of the private bus operators continued their strike for the sixth day over salary hike and other demands, officials said.
Sunil Vaidya, spokesperson of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), said the public transport body operated 603 wet leased buses with its own drivers on various bus routes, along with operating around 1,390 of its own buses.
The state-owned Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) operated 122 buses from six different depots of the BEST to avoid inconvenience to the commuters, he said.
Majority of the drivers of seven private bus operators, that have leased their buses to the BEST, have been on strike since August 2 over salary hike and other demands, including free ride on BEST buses.
According to BEST officials, their bus services have been affected due to the ongoing strike. The waiting time for buses at stops has increased and as a result, many buses have been witnessing overcrowding of passengers, they said. The wet leased operators have been asked to sort out the issues as fast as possible by negotiating with their employees, Vaidya said.
The BEST is also taking action against the bus operators as per the terms and conditions in the agreements with them. The BEST undertaking, which provides public bus services in Mumbai and neighbouring areas, has hired more than 1,600 buses from some contractors on a wet lease model, under which the vehicle ownership, maintenance, fuel and driver costs are the responsibility of the private operator.
The public transport body ferries more than 30 lakh commuters on its buses in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira-Bhayander cities with its fleet of more than 3,100 buses, of which it owns less than 1,400 buses.