BEST lost 3,000 hrs owing to staff crunchUpdated: Nov 23, 2019 00:49 IST
Members of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking on Friday have expressed their concerns over the deteriorating services, owing to the shortage of drivers and conductors, as well as the reduced bus fleet of the transport body.
In a meeting held to discuss the ₹2,200-crore budget deficit the BEST administration had presented earlier this month, members from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the BEST panel said that every day, the transport body loses 2,500-3,000 operational hours owing to the late departure of buses from depots and the unavailability of relievers.
Senior BJP member Shrikant Kawathankar, said the situation gets worse during the weekends, as around 40% of the staff is given a weekly off on Saturday and 60% on Sunday. “Every day, there is a loss of 2,500-3,000 hours. Who is responsible for the losses,” he said.
BJP members said in 2019-20 budget, the BEST administration had proposed to increase its fleet of buses to 4,050. However, it only has around 3,198 buses in the fleet at present. “BEST has received only 23 wet-leased buses until now. Thus I doubt if the remaining buses will arrive on time,”Kawathankar said.
Another senior BJP member, Sunil Ganacharya, has said that wet-leasing will “prove to be suicidal” and lead to losses for the transport body.
Shiv Sena member Suhas Samant said a large number of commuters are travelling without tickets, as the posts of ticket inspectors are also vacant.
According to the panel members, BEST has assured to maintain its fleet at 3,337 in a memorandum of understanding with the unions, and in 2020-21 it will have to scrap 896 buses, including 726 single-decker and 72 double-decker buses. “When will new buses arrive in BEST’s fleet when the process of buying not began yet?” Kawathankar has said.
Though panel members from the BJP welcomed the move to reduce the minimum bus fare to ₹5 from ₹8, they have asked the transport body to increase the fare of the air-conditioned buses, to recover the daily losses worth ₹77 lakh. The transport body’s annual losses are estimated to be around ₹250 crore.
After hours of discussion, the committee cleared the budget for 2020-21 after 11pm on Friday. According to BEST officials, the budget will now be sent to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for final approval.