With seven staff members of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) testing positive for COVID-19, a decision has been taken for buses to run without conductors. This has led to a fear of layoffs among the employees.
Right now, the only means of transport in Mumbai is being offered by BEST, with its services being used by those providing essential services to commute. In addition to the drivers, these buses usually have one conductor and sometimes a helper on board. With three employees of BEST having been infected while on duty, BEST has decided that henceforth, there will be no other employee on duty on these buses, other than the driver.
Even the buses being used to distribute food, will be manned by just their respective drivers. The same rule applies to buses being used as medical response vehicles. The objective is to restrict the number of people on duty, so that the spread of the virus is checked.
Those travelling in these buses to the Mantralaya, that is, the administrative headquarters of the state government of Maharashtra, will have to strictly adhere main social distancing.
However, the move resulted in many drivers and conductors rising in protest at the depot in Wadala. The workers’ union is accusing BEST of taking advantage of the present emergency situation to tweak its policies. The conductors feel that since their services are no longer required as a result of the new rule, BEST will lay them off.