Pune: The summer vacation is ending and people are going back to their native place while students are joining schools and colleges after spending vacations at their native towns or villages.
These passengers suffered following the sudden unannounced strike by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) staff on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.
Thousands of travellers were stranded at various locations in and around the city, including Pune station, Shivajinagar, Swargate and Vallabhnagar (Pimpri-Chinchwad) due to non-availability of buses.
The strike hit ST bus services from Pune to Nashik, Aurangabad, Buldhana, Chiplun, Satara, Sangli, Marathwada region and other cities.
Officials said the strike adversely affected MSRTC services in the western Maharashtra and Marathwada region.
Cashing in on the inconvenience caused to people by the strike, private travel agents are raking in the moolah. Serpentine queues were seen at ticket cancellation windows. Many passengers narrated their ordeal following the strike.
Tanaya Jahagirdar, an IT professional, had planned her weekend with her parents, who stay in Aurangabad. However, she on Friday morning received a message stating that her ST reservation was cancelled due to the flash strike by the ST employees.
“Actually, my husband has gone on an official tour. So, I decided to spend the weekend with my parents. Accordingly, I booked a ticket on a Friday evening bus. I came to office in the morning with my luggage as I had decided to leave a little early. Now I am really upset as it has spoiled my plan,” Tanaya told Sakal Times.
A group of four students planning to travel to Nashik to take a state government examination on Saturday reached the Shivajinagar stand and found that not a single bus was leaving for Nashik. “We have an examination in Nashik but there are no buses here. Some private agents are approaching us and demanding an exorbitant fare ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 750. The ST buses charge only Rs 250-350 for Nashik. Private operators are looting passengers. We have to reach Nashik till night. But we can't pay more than Rs 350 per head,” said Sagar Joshi, one of the aspirants.
Tanmayee Joglekar, an IT professional residing in Kothrud, said, “I had planned to visit my hometown in Chiplun this weekend. I had booked a ticket on a Shivshahi bus. However, now I have to cancel my plan at the last moment because of the strike.”
Sharda Joshi had to go to Aurangabad urgently by a Shivneri bus. One of her family members was in a critical condition and admitted to a private hospital. She said, “I have to go urgently but not a single bus is plying. If I book a seat with a private operators, it will depart from Pune at night.”
According to officials at the Pune Division of MSRTC, of the scheduled 1,110 trips till 4 pm on Friday at 13 depots, only 200 took place while 910 trips were cancelled due to non-availibity of conductors and drivers.
The state transport department has appealed to private bus operators, school bus owners, taxi associations to provide relief to stranded passengers. The State Home Ministry has published a circular on Friday afternoon allowing school buses, buses owned by private companies and goods transport vehicles to carry passengers till the strike is on.
Balasaheb Ajari, Regional Transport Officer (Pune) said private operators have expressed their willingness to come forward to help travellers. “Private operators have been asked to operate buses on long routes as passengers on these routes are most affected by the strike. There are some unions, which are not participating in the strike and their members will continue to work. Similarly, Shivneri (AC Volvo) buses are plying. Hence, traffic on the Pune-Mumbai route is not affected so much. We have also urged private bus operators to step in and provide affordable services as this was the time where they can show their humane side,” said Ajri.
He said while the strike was certainly causing discomfort to passengers, the state administration was trying its best to reduce it.