The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) administration on Thursday tabled its action plan — in which it has proposed a fare hike — to the BEST committee, its policy-making body. The plan irked the BEST Worker’s Union, which threatened to go on strike if it was implemented. BEST sources said the ruling party, the Shiv Sena, will discuss the proposal once the public and BEST staff have calmed down.
The BEST administration has proposed a minimum fare of Rs12, up from Rs8, for ordinary buses. The fare of AC buses will be hiked from Rs15 to Rs 25.
Going through its worst financial crisis, with outstanding loans worth Rs-1995.55 crore till March 1, and cumulative losses of Rs2142.08 crore, the century-old body came up with the action plan after discussing it with municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta for more than three months.
Some of the plan’s suggestions will directly affect 30 lakh suburban commuters, while others will increase the troubles of BEST staffers. The body proposed a hike in regular bus pass rates and the rates of concessional bus passes issued to school children, retired staffs and reporters, discontinuing the happy-hour pass scheme.
In another move that will hit commuters, BEST plans to reduce its fleet from 3,798 buses to 3,337. BEST plans to stop plying buses on 150 routes which earn 40% or less than the amount needed to operate the bus.
Jagdish Patil, BEST general manager, said these buses will be diverted to other routes.
“Only 3 lakh commuters travel on these routes. Diverting these buses to other routes will allow us to provide better service to the 20 to 21 lakh commuters on other routes,” said Patil.
BEST also proposes to freeze the dearness allowance of its staff, and curtail their allowances, perks and welfare schemes. Along with a temporary hiring freeze, the undertaking plans to terminate the services of employees older than 55 who have bad service record.
The BEST Workers Union, led by Shashank Rao, protested against the plan, terming it ‘anti-labour’ and saying it violated service rules.
Terming the fare hike ‘suicidal’, transport experts highlighted the need to restructure BEST’s operations. They said the BMC must support the unprofitable transport body.
“Considering BEST’s competition, it will be suicidal to increase bus fares at this time. BEST will be badly hit,” said AV Shenoy, transport expert.