The elections are over and as expected, the fare hikes are back. The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) is set to increase bus fare after the civic body on Tuesday refused to pay a subsidy of Rs 150 crore to the loss-making undertaking.
This will affect the city’s 40 lakh bus commuters, who will be burdened with two consecutive fare hikes in less than two months. They will end up paying Rs 8 for minimum distance from the next financial year. The first fare hike — to be implemented from February 1 — will range from Rs 1-10, depending on the distance travelled. After this, on April 1, the fare will go up again by Rs 1-2 at each level.
The minimum fare will go up from the existing Rs 6 to Rs 7 in February and to Rs 8 in April. The minimum fare for BEST’s air-conditioned bus will increase from the current Rs 20 to Rs 25 in February and Rs30 in April. Apart from increasing the fare, the undertaking has also restructured the distance slab, which will force commuters to pay a higher fare for the same distance they travel now. Presently, the distance slabs are 2km, 3km, 5km, 7km, 10km and 15km. In the 2015-16 budget, which was passed on Tuesday, it is proposed to be 2km, 4km, 6km, 10km, 14km, 20km and 30km.
The budget was passed amid protests by the Opposition — Congress, NCP and MNS — who demanded the additional amount be granted to help BEST deal with the losses and thus not burden the commuters. The budget for BEST’s transport wing is Rs 2,800 crore and it faces a deficit of Rs 777 crore.
BEST’s total budget – both transport and supply wing – amounts to Rs 7,100 crore.
In 2014-15, which was also an election year, the Sena-BJP-ruled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) granted BEST a subsidy of Rs 150crore to avoid fare revision.
“Last year, then standing committee chairman and now MP Rahul Shewale took a personal interest in granting Rs 150crore because it was an election year. But now the real face of Shiv Sena- BJP leaders has been revealed. They want commuters to suffer,” said Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Sandip Deshpande.
The Opposition created a ruckus over the issue and walked out because the budget was approved with no help announced by the ruling alliance.
The citizens will also have to pay more for the BEST’s losses. The BEST had also demanded a cess of 0.02% on property tax, which would have meant that BEST could save around Rs 300- 350crore. The BMC, however, demanded a separate proposal be sent for the purpose.
“Amendments need to be made in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, which is a lengthy process. The demand will be considered once BEST sends a formal proposal to the standing committee,” said mayor Snehal Ambekar, who is a Shiv Sena member.
Citizens, meanwhile, are irked by the elected representatives. “No matter who we elect, the common man faces the heat every time. This has shown how politicians are power hungry and do not bother about citizens’ needs and difficulties,” said Rajkumar Sharma, coordinator of action for good governance and networking in India (AGNI).
Criticising the BMC’s move, Kedar Hombalkar BEST committee member, said, “Worldwide, the public transport system is subsidised. With Mumbai being India’s financial capital, its key public transport system, which is BEST, should be subsidised by its parent body BMC and the state government also.”
“The BEST didn’t enforce any fare hike from 2001-10 and to balance the accumulated losses we have to enforce these hikes,” said Jagdish Patil, general manager BEST.
The BEST will now put forth a fare hike proposal to the Mumbai Metropolitan Transport Authority before implementing the same.