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BEST plans to get 450 smaller buses, unions threaten indefinite strike in Mumbai from Feb 15

Around 225 buses are to be hired from two contractors, who will operate and maintain them; labour unions unhappy with this decision

mumbai Updated: Feb 13, 2018 15:27 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Mumbai bus,BEST,labour union
Of the 450 buses, 200 will be AC mini buses, 200 mini non-AC buses and 50 non-AC midi buses. (HT File (Representational Image))

The policy-making body of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport ((BEST) undertaking on Monday cleared the proposal for hiring 450 buses including mini, midi and air conditioned (AC) buses on wet-lease, worth around Rs650 crore, as a part of reforms suggested by the parent body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

Upset with the decision the labour unions have warned indefinite strike from February 15. Of the 450 buses, 200 will be AC mini buses, 200 mini non-AC buses and 50 non-AC midi buses.

According to the proposal, 225 buses will be hired from two contractors each on ‘wet-lease basis’ in which the contractor will take care of driver, fuel and maintenance of the buses, while BEST will provide its conductor and parking space to the buses. “BEST will have full operational control on the running of the buses,” said general manager Surendrakumar Bagde. He said that BEST is likely to save buses between Rs 8-33 per km, for various types of buses.

The BEST will pay Rs48 per km for the mini AC bus, Rs41 per km for the non-AC mini buses and Rs45 per km for non-AC midi buses. The mini buses will have to run 3,500 kms while midi buses will have to run 4,000 kms.

Introduction of mini-AC buses was one of the short-term low-cost solutions discussed in HT’s ‘Unclog Mumbai’ series.

Presently, BEST has about 3,300 buses including nearly 750 midi buses, ferrying about 28 lakh passengers every day. According to BEST, these new wet-lease will start arriving from July-August. “In the first phase, 25% of the total buses will join the fleet and others will enter gradually,” Bagde said.

Mini buses will have capacity of 30 passengers and midi buses will ferry 42 passengers. The BEST administration is planning to operate these buses on various feeder routes.

The decision has not gone well among the labour unions. “The battle of our existance has begun with the privatization of BEST,” said Shashank Rao, leader of joint action committee of unions in BEST.

Bharatiya Janata Party members also opposed the wet-lease proposal, though Shiv Sena members supported the move saying that preference should be given to the son of soils and wards of BEST employees, when the contractors will appoint staffers. “It will be Shiv Sena’s responsibility when this decision will prove disastrous,” said Sunil Ganacharya, senior member of BJP on BEST panel. Ravi Raja, a senior Congress party member of BEST panel said, “The BMC commissioner and BEST administration is trying to compel us to pass the project.”

First Published: Feb 13, 2018 01:11 IST