CHENNAI: As transport unions went on strike on Monday, the number of Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) buses plying were far fewer, forcing the State Government to rope in private buses.
Even so, only about 300 trips of the usual 48,000 were taken on Monday, according to K Natarajan, general secretary of the MTC Employees Progressive Union. However, the PRO for MTC, Maya Kumaresan, said that 1,500 of the usual 3,600 buses in the city were active.
“We’ve been waiting for a bus for the last one-and-a-half-hours, as whatever buses are running are filled,” said Ramya Devi, who was waiting at the Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus (CMBT) on Monday morning to go to her sister’s house in Poonamallee. Only 90 of the usual 532 services from CMBT were operational, along with around 40 private buses.
Although around 10 transport unions, including the Labour Progressive Federation (DMK) and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), had announced that the indefinite strike would begin on Monday, notices had been stuck on several MTC buses since Sunday saying that services would function as usual, which led to some believing that life would remain normal.
“I’ve been waiting for almost two hours,” said S Renuka, who works as a domestic help. “My employer gets angry if I come late. I’m already an hour late, and there’s no sign of transport. Whether I walk or fly now, I’ve lost part of my salary for the day.”
She was waiting at a bus stop in Sholinganallur to get to a house she worked at in Thuraipakkam.
Commuters also said they were unaware of private arrangements. In many cases, those waiting at bus stands in the city let these buses pass by, thinking they belonged to corporate offices.
According to MTC officials, buses were plying along main routes like Avadi, Tambaram, Kelambakkam and Velachery, and it was only remote services that were hit. An official added there were lots of ‘cut-services’, ie, buses to a destination would terminate operations before reaching its usual destination, forcing passengers to find other means to get to the spot.
The metro services offered little respite, said commuters. “Most of the metro routes are covered by the buses itself, which is also the cheaper option. It’s only commuters to remote parts of the city who’re stranded today, since there were neither buses nor metros there,” said J Karthikeyan, a regular metro commuter who works in Guindy.
1,000 private buses from districts: Minister
Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar on Monday said that if employees failed to return to duty on Tuesday, those who had driver and conductor licences would be recruited for operating buses on a daily-wage basis. Besides, 1,000 private buses from other districts would be brought to Chennai to provide better transportation facilities.
He also charged that the DMK and communist parties had politicised the issue, despite CM’s announcement.
Unions ‘ready for talks’ to end strike
Reiterating demands, the 10 unions which called for indefinite strike sought intervention of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in the issue, adding unions were ready to hold talks.
The joint statement of unions said the State should take responsibility for strike, and apologised for inconvenience caused to public. They also criticised government’s move to operate buses by engaging new persons, since it was against ILO rules.
5 buses damaged, 12 ransacked in a day
As many as 55 State-run buses were damaged across Tamil Nadu, and 12 government buses ransacked in the city. Around 78 people were detained across the State.
Miscreants pelted stones at buses plying in Anna Nagar, Otteri, Chromepet, MMDA, Washermanpet, Thirumangalam.