Sunday, May 21, 2006


Here in Mumbai , we are in the throes of one more, suddenly declared , BEST bus strike. A lot of people who do not read newspapers in the morning, (probably as they leave for work before the newspapers come, or are simply too busy organising meals and households before their departure to enjoy the newspaper luxury), stood endlessly at busstops till others landed up and confirmed their worst fears; THERE WAS A BUS STRIKE.

Today is the second day, and the strike is supposed to be "indefinite".

At the end of the day, Mumbai buses are really great. They travel through roads and traffic conditions that would unnerve even the best drivers anywhere. Buses meant for 22 "standees" (after all seats have been taken), are routinely packed with like 50 standees normally; the conductor manages to move through it all issuing tickets, without offending anyones modesty or temperament, often having to deal with people in their 80's travelling with the entire joint families, construction workers going to some site, pseudo smart white collar types obsessed with cell phones, entangled in their ear pieces, not to speak of students with their backpacks, women on their way to weddings, getting last minute instructions from folks on the ground, as they clutch the door on the last step of the bus, trying to push a 5 year old child into an already impossibly packed bus.
. (Once I even saw a guy from a cake shop carrying 3 huge cakes for deilvery in such a packed bus. I dont even think he thought twice about it)

And these buses regularly transport everyone to all their destinations, through rain, moon, sun, storms, earthquakes, floods.

Given the geographical features of the city, this is a challenge. The conductors and drivers have to make the requisite number of trips during the day over such varying conditions, or they are docked a penalty off their daily earnings.

These guys went on strike for an enhancement of dearness allowance that was earlier agreed upon, and now the earlier decision was declared timebarred.

Two days of immense inconvenience to the general public. Small children going to appear in school exams. maids going for their daily housework jobs. Young people trying to keep a decent attendance in their first job miles away from home.

And the government DELIBERATES. For two full days. The same government who wants to allocate Rs 2 crores and install a statue of Shivaji somewhere in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai. Shivaji himself would have recommended that the money be used for the welfare of the hard working people.

As of now, the news is the TALKS have been inconculsive and not reached anywhere.

So far, we had an airport-authority employees strike that crippled the airports and turned them into dustbins; a bank strike for 7 days (which was like Marie Antoinette going on strike as "biscuits wont do, i eat only cakes") that caused a loss of thousands of crores of Rs to the country, a recent strike of Udipi Hotels in Mumbai protesting Value added taxes, a strike by Municipal Hospital Doctors to protest absence of basic security in wards (where a patients relatives slapped a doctor after a patient died).

Maybe I left out some strikes.

I only hope the rain doesnt go on strike this year.

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