Bombay High Court asks BEST workers’ union to decide on withdrawal of strike

The Bombay High Court has directed the BEST workers’ union to take a final decision on the withdrawal of its ongoing strike by Tuesday evening and inform the court on Wednesday.

The direction came after the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) told a bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar that it was willing to implement the redressal measure suggested by a high-powered committee on granting an interim pay hike to its employees.

The counsel for BEST, M P Rao, told the bench that the corporation was “open to implementing a 10-step increment” for its employees with effect from February this year.

The increase, however, will be implemented subject to the fact that the strike was called off this (Tuesday) evening, Rao told the bench.

As per the previous submissions made by the BEST workers’ union and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in the court, a ‘one-step’ increase in pay for BEST workers amounts to around Rs 330 per person per month.

In compliance with the court’s previous orders, the state government through Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, submitted a list of measures recommended by the committee to address the demands raised by the workers’ union.

The committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, was constituted by the state last week.

The committee in its report, has recommended among other things, that subject to the strike being called off, as an interim measure, workers be granted a ’10-step increase’ in salary for about 15,000 employees in a time-bound manner.

This amount of increment, however, will be subsumed in the final agreement.

It also recommended that upgradation and modernisation measures be implemented within the BEST, but no existing employees should be retrenched.

The bench has been hearing since last week a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Datta Mane, urging the court to pass interim orders directing the BEST workers to call off the strike immediately.

Around 38,000 BEST employees have been on strike since the last eight days now.

Some of their demands include a pay hike, revision of pay grade for junior level employees, and the merger of BEST’s budget with that of the BMC.

Adarsh land belonged to state, not meant for war heroes: Minister

A union minister Thursday said on oath that the land in prestigious south Mumbai where the controversial Adarsh Society’s 31-storey housing block stands belonged to the state and was never reserved for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes.

While Union Energy Minister and former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde in a sworn affidavit asserted that no favours were extended to the Adarsh Society, the state’s then urban development minister Sunil Tatkare claimed he had nothing to do with the society and the matter was handled by the then chief minister.

Shinde and Tatkare, who is now the state’s water resources minister, made their detailed submissions in separate affidavits filed before a government-appointed panel probing the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam.

The panel had issued summons to the two to appear before it as witnesses.”The plot where Adarsh (society) stands is owned by the state of Maharashtra. The plot was not reserved for defence personnel or Kargil war heroes,” Shinde said.

Shinde, who was the chief minister at the relevant period when files pertaining to the society were processed, said that all the allegations levelled against him in the matter were false.

The two ministers’ affidavits came in response to summons issued May 2 by the two-member commission probing the scam, asking them to appear before it as witnesses.

Shinde said that the land was allotted to the society only after a proper scrutiny of all the records and following the norms.

“The letter of intent, dated Jan 18, 2003, made it clear that the land was allotted according to a GR (Government Resolution) of July 1999, which did not provide reservation for war heroes,” he said in the affidavit.

Dismissing allegations of receiving favours from the society officials, Shinde said the due process of the law was followed and proper verification was done by several state government officials before permission was granted to the 31-storeyed high-rise tower in south Mumbai.”During my tenure as chief minister from May 2003 till November 2004, I did not get any complaint about any alleged irregularity in allotment of the land to Adarsh Society,” Shinde said in his affidavit.Tatkare, who was the state’s urban development minister at the relevant time, in his affidavit said he was not concerned about the decisions pertaining to Adarsh Society which fell within the chief minister’s jurisdiction.

“Between 1999 and 2003, standing orders had been issued by the chief minister, dividing the work of the department of urban development between himself and the minister,” Tatkare said.

Except for rejecting a proposal seeking extra floor space index (FSI) made by the society, Tatkare said he was not even remotely connected with anything to do with it.

Explaining the circumstances leading to the rejection (of FSI proposal which would have allowed additional floor area), Tatkare said on July 14, 2004, a meeting was held with top officials of the revenue and housing departments, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, legislator Kanhaiyalal Gidwani and Mumbai collector on the issue.

Former chief minister Ashok Chavan, who was the revenue minister between 2001-03 had sent a proposal to the then chief minister Shinde, recommending that 40 percent of the flats in the building be allotted to civilians.

Ashok Chavan, who was also directed to file his affidavit, sought an extension of time limit till June 13, which was granted by the commission.

The two-member commission, headed by Bombay High Court’s former chief justice J.A. Patil and former Maharashtra chief secretary P. Subramaniam, was appointed in January this year.