The Centre has pulled up the city’s public transport undertaking for renting out 30 new buses meant for commuters to some airlines. The union urban development ministry asked the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking two weeks ago to explain why it had violated terms under which the Centre had subsidised the buses.
“These buses are meant solely for city transport,” said S.K. Lohiya, joint secretary of urban transport in the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, a multi-crore national scheme to augment India’s urban infrastructure.
These 30 buses are a part of a 1,000-bus fleet worth Rs. 284 crore. The central government and BEST will each pay half this amount. The BEST has so far received 829 of those buses, of which it is using 799 for its city network. These 30 buses constitute more than 15 per cent of the 188 vehicles that BEST has rented out to private individuals. This 188 constitutes four per cent of its fleet of 4,685.
BEST rented out some of these to Cambata Aviation, a ground-handling agency at Mumbai airport. The company leased them to Jet Airways, Air India and Kingfisher Airlines, who use it to ferry passengers between termini.
The transport undertaking admitted the violation. “It is an interim measure. We are in the process of withdrawing the buses,” said Victor Nagaonkar, officer on special duty.