While the political parties are blaming each other for the proposed hike in bus fares, the fact is that you need not be burdened with the increase if the state government, ruled by the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party, and the saffron combine-led civic body do away with the taxes imposed by them on the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking which runs the service.
On Monday, the BEST committee approved a hike of Re1 to Rs 6 for ordinary buses, and of minimum Rs5 for air-conditioned ones, from which the loss-suffering undertaking expects to recover Rs158 crore annually. This is the amount BEST pays as taxes each year.
In 2010-11, BEST paid Rs37.80 crore as passenger tax, Rs18.72 crore nutrition surcharge, Rs7.62 crore toll tax, Rs2.43 crore motor vehicle tax, and approximately Rs66 crore value added tax (VAT) to the state government. It also paid Rs20 crore as property tax and Rs5.60 crore on account of octroi tax to the BMC. The total works out to Rs158.17 crore.
"If the state and the corporation grant subsidy to BEST, there would be no need to increase fare," said Suhas Samant, a BEST committee member.
Criticising the hike, transport activist AV Shenoy said: "The hike is needed to operate the transport wing, but it should be justified. The state and BMC should help reduce the burden on passengers."
But this hasn't stopped the political parties from passing the buck on the issue. "The undertaking is a sister concern of the corporation, so instead of asking the state government to waive off taxes, the civic body should first reduce its taxes," said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member from the Congress.
BEST chairman Ashok Patil on Tuesday said: "The proposal will come up before the civic general body for approval on April 16. Before that, we will request the BMC and also write to CM for reduction in taxes."