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Strike leaves Metro users stranded for several hours

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Jul 8 2017, 2:50 IST
People wait for  BMTC  buses in front of the  Mysuru Road Metro  station on Friday.  DH Photo Srikanta Sharma R

People wait for BMTC buses in front of the Mysuru Road Metro station on Friday. DH Photo Srikanta Sharma R

More than one lakh Namma Metro commuters were stranded as trains did not run for seven hours on Friday.

Trouble had been brewing since Thursday, following a fracas between a policeman and Metro staffers at the Central College station, and it resulted in the first-ever disruption of Metro services, in any Indian city, because of a strike.

Employees of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) began protesting on Thursday evening, and hadn’t resumed work till 11.30 am on Friday.

They returned only when the state government invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act, which provides for the arrest and imprisonment of employees blocking essential public services.

Bengaluru Development Minister K J George told DH the government had invoked the law for the first time, and hoped it would serve as a warning to all employees of state-run transport corporations not to make people suffer.

The disruption is unprecedented in the history of metro rail services in India: even 20-day-long protests in Delhi and Kolkata had not affected train services. Namma Metro, which touched a daily ridership of 3.5 lakh recently, carries more than one lakh people from 5 am to 10 am.

Waiting since 5 am

Many were stuck at the stations for hours as the train services, usually beginning at 5 am, did not come to life. On Friday, commuters had to make last-minute arrangements to get to office and reach other destinations.

This led to traffic congestion all along the Metro routes. It also had a cascading effect on traffic movement in the central part of the city as people took out personal vehicles or hailed cabs and autos.
The BMTC deployed more than 200 additional buses to clear the rush.

“The worst thing was lack of information. No security staff at the stations knew about the strike. I thought it was a technical glitch and waited for nearly an hour,” Madhusudhan Hegde, a commuter at the Rajajinagar station, said.

Late-night talks

A BMRCL official said managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola met protesters at 4 am to convince them to end their dharna.

“It was an emotional issue. The staffers were protesting peacefully and claimed they were threatened by KSISF personnel. They also wanted the release of a station controller who was arrested though he was not involved in the scuffle,” he said.

Kharola confirmed he had spoken for a long time to persuade employees to resume operations. “This is an unprecedented event. We are holding internal meetings... We will take steps to ensure that such events are not repeated. I cannot share more details at this time,” he said.
Trouble on the tracks

What caused it?

On Thursday, a policeman attached to the Karnataka State Industrial Security Force slapped a Metro employee on the escalator at the Central College station. A few minutes later, a group of Metro employees retaliated by raining blows on the policeman. The fracas snowballed into an overnight protest by the Metro staff.

Who suffered?

Students, office-goers and a host of others waiting to use the Metro in the morning. The trains resumed only at noon. Bengaluru Development Minister K J George was among those who had planned to take the Metro on Friday.

What did commuters do?

People waited for hours at the stations, with no clue about the strike. Eventually, they took buses, autos and cabs. Many brought out their personal vehicles.

How did BMTC respond?

It deployed 200 extra buses. A senior official said it had earned an additional Rs 4 lakh on Friday.

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