As the city came to a virtual standstill on Thursday, the low passenger turnout and stone-pelting on four Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) buses compelled the undertaking to curtail services by 30%, around 1,000 buses.
Traditionally, festive occasions such as Bhaubeej, which was on Thursday, and Raksha Bandhan, are the highest revenue days for the BEST undertaking. However, rumours concerning ailing Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s health and the resultant partial lock down in the city led to a very low passenger turnout.
“We run special buses on Bhaubeej for the extra crowd, but this year, we had to cut down services on some routes. This may result in lower revenues,” said a BEST official. On normal days, the undertaking earns around Rs3.66 crore, which on special occasions can cross Rs4 crore.
After news of Thackeray’s critical condition got out, four civic buses were damaged in the city. Two buses were damaged at Lalbaug, while one was attacked at Jeevan Nagar, Andheri, between 5am and 6am. Another was damaged at Sardarnagar, Sion, officials said.
The few commuters who stepped out of their homes had a tough time, and even taxis and auto rickshaws were not keen on plying to areas that are Sena strongholds. “More than five taxis refused to ply to Bandra. Similarly, none of them wanted to come to Shivaji Park or Dadar. It was a dreadful day,” said Kings Circle resident Nonshna Sen, a fashion designer.
The undertaking is taking requisite precautions for Friday. “We have deployed senior officials of all 25 depots on field from the early morning, so they can take spot decisions about running services,” said a senior BEST official. BEST chairman Ashok Patil said: “We have directed our staff to immediately park buses in nearby depots in case of any untoward incident. The BEST buses are a soft target in any such situation, and we have to ensure no or minimum damage is caused.”