The strike by the drivers of private bus operators hired by the BEST - Mumbai's civic transport utility - intensified on the third day on Friday with more than 1,300 buses staying off roads, causing immense inconvenience to commuters using the service.
A spokesperson of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) said that as many as 1,375 out of the total 1,671 private buses of the civic transport service did not leave 20 depots, including Colaba, Worli, Majas, Shivaji Nagar, Ghatkopar, Deonar, Mulund, Santacruz, Oshiwara and Magathane, since morning.
"The strike by drivers of private bus operators for the salary hike and other demands intensified on the third day. Majority of drivers of the BEST's four big private bus operators - Mateshwari, SMT, Hansa and Tata Motors have joined the strike on Thursday," a BEST official said.
On Wednesday, drivers of the private bus operator SMT, also known as the Daga Group, went on a flash strike at the Ghatkopar and Mulund depots of BEST in the eastern suburbs over their demand for a salary hike, affecting services on several bus routes. On the first day of the strike, only 160 leased buses did not operate, but the number crossed 1,000 on the second day on Wednesday.
The operations of the BEST's wet leased buses were severely hampered at Ghatkopar, Mulund, Shivaji Nagar, Worli and other depots, the officials said. The undertaking has directed the private operators to resolve the issue as early as possible, and necessary action was being taken against these companies as per the terms and conditions of the lease agreements, they said.
The protesting drivers have claimed that they did not get adequate salary hike in the last three years and find it difficult to manage household expenses. Their salaries are quite low compared to those of BEST employees, they added.
The BEST has hired buses on a wet lease model under which private operators have the responsibility of the vehicle ownership, maintenance, fuel and driver costs.
The undertaking's fleet of around 3,100 buses (including its own 1,340 buses) ferries more than 30 lakh people in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, Navi Mumbai and Mira-Bhayandar every day.