Pune: The Maharashtra bandh hit public transport in the city on Wednesday. The bandh call was given by RPI leader Prakash Ambedkar following the Koregaon-Bhima incidents on January 1. MSRTC suffered losses to the tune of Rs 6.58 lakh while PMPML faced losses amounting to Rs 1.5 crore after 15 buses belonging to the former and 50 buses belonging to the latter were vandalised.
PMPML officials said protestors damaged their 50 buses in the morning hours, which forced the transport body to suspend operations on routes that were vulnerable to attacks by protestors till 5 pm, when the strike and agitation was finally called off. They said the suspension of operations cost the transport body Rs 1.5 crore, in addition to Rs 8.69 lakh worth losses on account of damage to their buses.
“Of the 50 buses, which were damaged by stone pelters, 43 are owned by PMPML while seven belong to private contractors hired by PMPML. On Tuesday, 18 buses were damaged by protestors,” said Subhash Gaikwad, PRO, PMPML He said PMPML continued operations in peaceful areas with the help of the police.
“In locations such as Awhalwadi, Manjari, Pune station, Gultekdi, Upper Indira Nagar, Dehu Gaon, Chikhali, Yerawada Chowk, Sadhu Vaswani Chowk, Talegaon, damage to buses was reported by our staff. Services were stopped to avoid further loss and harm to passengers as well as our staffers,” said Gaikwad.
According to MSRTC, Pune Division officials, their 15 buses were damaged by protestors resulting in an estimated loss of Rs 6.59 lakh. The protest also led to the cancellation of services from its 13 depots in the district. Of the total 335 trips that were cancelled on Wednesday, officials said the highest number of them were from Shivajinagar Bus Depot (176). The division estimated the losses at Rs 25.95 lakh.
Those using private vehicles, too, suffered as traffic on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway was blocked by protestors, which slowed down traffic for several hours. The Pune-Satara, Pune-Ahmednagar and Pune-Solapur highways remained blocked as protestors continued the sit-ins from early morning till late afternoon despite the police presence.
Protesters entered the Pimpri railway station premises and blocked traffic for about an hour. The protest delayed the arrival of Coimbatore-Kurla Express by an hour. Protestors shouted slogans at the Pune railway station, although, Government Railway Police, Railway Protection Force as well as State police managed to keep them away from blocking the tracks.
Due to protests in Mumbai, several trains coming towards Pune from Mumbai were delayed by several hours. Among these were Nanded Express, Kurla-Bidar Express, Mumbai-Hyderabad Express, Nagercoil Express, Mumbai-Chennai Express, Sinhagad Express, Deccan Queen, Pragati Express and Sahyadri Express. These trains were halted near Thane till 5 pm when the strike was called off.
Passengers complained that rickshaw drivers overcharged them in their hour of need.
“I wanted to travel to Swargate from Shivajinagar. When I approached a rickshaw driver, he refused to ply by meter and demanded Rs 100 for the journey, which generally costs about Rs 40,” said Mahesh Badgujar, a resident of Warje.
What added to their woes was cab service aggregrators refusing to accept booking requests. “They were not accepting bookings and cabs were unavailable for most of the day. However, Ola was accepting bookings for autorickshaw travel. A few private cab operators that were plying had hiked up prices to over twice the regular fare,” said a passenger.