Contract renewed, cluster bus operators end strike

The drivers and conductors have resumed their duties whose prime concern with the termination of cluster service was being out of jobs.
Cluster buses parked in a depot.
Cluster buses parked in a depot.File photo

NEW DELHI: With the conductors and drivers ending their 9-day strike, nearly 700 cluster buses are set to hit the city roads again after the transport department extended their contracts by nine months on Monday, a day ahead of their expiry.

The drivers and conductors have resumed their duties whose prime concern with the termination of cluster service was being out of jobs.

According to bus operators, assurance has been received from the government that no employee will be fired during this period. After nine months, talks will resume on various issues, including whether the drivers and conductors will be transferred to other depots or deployed on private electric buses, they said.

The operators had gone on a strike in five bus depots based in Dilshad Garden, Seemapuri, Rajghat, Okhla and Dichaon Kalan affecting 70 routes. Run by the transport department the buses were procured by the city government ten years ago from a private operator on a contract whose term was slated to end on June 19.

The Delhi government has planned to replace these CNG-run cluster buses with electric buses. However, the transition has been delayed due to several issues, including the lack of electrification of depots, non-allotment of depots, non-approval of prototypes, and delayed production by operators, officials said.

While the Transport department officials did not approve the extension, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot decided to go ahead with the extension citing loss of employment and inconvenience to the people who rely on cluster buses to travel.

Sources said that the officials opposed the contract extension because the buses lack quality and are in poor condition. A few months ago, 600 overaged cluster buses were phased out.

Regarding the delays in electrification of bus depots, the minister said the financial approval for electrification of many depots is yet to be issued. “It takes about 12 to 18 months for the completion of the electrification of a depot. In such a situation, many depots will remain unutilised.

However, the department has neither commented upon this issue nor suggested any alternative course of action,” Gahlot said, asking the department to “furnish” this “information immediately”.

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