Despite the officials of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) promising to take adequate steps to maintain normal bus services on the day of the strike called by nine transport trade unions, residents in the city faced severe hardships on Thursday.
Hundreds of commuters, particularly those in the southern and western suburbs, were affected because of the limited operation of buses in the morning hours. Adding to the woes of the commuters was the non-availability of alternative public transport.
Commuters from the southern suburbs were the hardest hit because of the snapping of the overhead power cable in the morning hours between Pallavaram and Tambaram, causing complete stoppage of trains for a few hours.
Also, the limited operation of train services announced by the Southern Railway on the Chennai Beach-Tambaram section for commissioning the third line resulted in hundreds of commuters getting stranded in different stations. Some were forced to take private vehicles to their offices. The Chennai division, as part of the limited services, operated only 80 trains instead of the 150 trains that were operated daily. The limited suburban operation would be in place till March 13.
T. Arul Das, a resident of Perungalathur, said already Southern Railway had placed restrictions on the workmen special services during peak hours and added to that the operation of limited services left the residents with no option but to travel in private vehicles or commercial vehicles. He blamed the poor planning of the government for the hardships caused to the people.
With the nine transport trade unions calling for a strike citing the non-conclusion of wage talks, transport employees, comprising mechanics, supervisors, drivers and conductors, stayed away. Several buses were kept idle in the more than 30 bus depots, including Perambur, Anna Nagar West, Thiruvanmiyur and Chromepet. Office goers and college students were hard hit by the bus strike.
While the officials of the MTC said more than 50% of the buses were plied, transport union members claimed only 10% buses were in operation in the morning peak hours though gradually the number of buses increased.
A senior MTC official said the strike call was illegal as wage talks were being held and Transport Minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar had also announced interim relief of ₹1,000 per month to all the employees.
LPF senior trade union leader K. Natarajan said the trade unions were forced to call the strike because of the humiliation meted out to them. He said they were ready for talks at any point of time but as the Transport Minister had not taken any steps to call the them for talks they have proposed to continue the strike indefinitely.
Another senior official of the MTC said more than 1,200 buses plied as gainst the normal 2,500 buses that were being operated during the pandemic.
A senior official of the Southern Railway said the overhead power cable snapped leading to disruption of suburban services. The fault which happened at 5.30 a.m. was restored by 7.30 a.m. and normal services resumed, he added.