Even as debt-ridden Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) is trying to retain its dwindling number of passengers to balance its losses, it has failed to plug its internal leakages, which has already caused losses of around Rs 2,400 crore to the public undertaking.
The BEST statistics indicate that its number of daily passengers has reduced from last year’s 40 lakh to 32 lakh in February 2015, when the first fare revision came in effect. The number went further down to 30 lakh, after the second fare revision was implemented on April 1.
Apart from the questionable land deals involving six depots at Kurla, Oshiwara, Versova, Andheri (East), Mahim and Kandivli that have allegedly caused revenue loss of an estimated Rs 2,000 crore, the BEST incurred huge losses owing to faulty tendering process, allege BEST committee members.
“If the above land parcels were optimally used and developed, we would have easily generated a revenue of more than Rs 2,000 crore. The undertaking would be able to run bus services efficiently at minimal fare if only all our resources were utilised properly,” said Shivji Singh, BEST committee member.
The undertaking is earning a profit only because of the electricity division’s revenue. The transport division that runs buses continues to be in loss of Rs 700 crore.
Criticising the lack of transparency in tendering process, Kedar Hombalkar BEST committee member said: “Primarily, BEST proposals are designed in such a way that it doesn’t require tendering. They are brought before committee at the last moment for approval. Unless this process is improved, the financial condition of BEST will not change.”
Questions were also raised over purchase of 200 buses in 2009, which was allegedly overpriced by Rs13.5 lakh. “Not only BEST management, but even central government had passed strictures on the proposal, claiming the buses bought under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission are substantially overpriced,” said Hombalkar.
When contacted Jagdish Patil, BEST committee general manager, said: “It’s not true that all tenders are delayed. Some tenders are awaiting committee approval for the past six months. However, now our priority is to improve BEST bus service, which will happen by decongesting the roads, giving proportionate road space to the buses and improving the frequency and punctuality.” He refused to comment on the previous alleged losses.