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Mumbai civic budget not in BEST interests

Allocation of Rs 44crore against demand of Rs 1,000crore to affect undertaking’s revival plan, say officials and experts.

mumbai Updated: Feb 07, 2019 08:04 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
BEST,bmc,Mumbai civic body
The undertaking is going through the worst-ever financial crisis for two years, facing losses running up to ₹720 crore(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

An allocation of Rs 44 crore in the civic body’s budget on Monday, against the demand of Rs1,000 crore to revive the loss-making Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) bus service, has disappointed its officials and transport experts.

The undertaking is going through the worst-ever financial crisis for two years, facing losses running up to Rs 720 crore. Also, it has taken loan of more than Rs 1,800 crore to meet daily expenses and execute major projects.

A total of Rs 34 crore from the Rs 30,692-crore budget for 2019-20 were allocated for an Integrated Transport Management System (ITMS) and Rs 10 crore was for BEST colonies. Under the much-delayed ITMS project worth Rs 112 crore, passengers were to get real-time updates, besides announcements about bus stops.

“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has allocated funds for the ITMS project, but the system will be effective only when there are buses at short intervals. If our app shows that the bus will arrive 45 minutes late, surely the passengers won’t wait for the bus. We need more buses,” said a BEST official, adding that 500 more buses are needed.

According to officials, the major financial challenge was to pay January salaries, considering the high court directive after a nine-day strike.

The BEST has an additional burden of around Rs 10 crore via a 10-step pay hike to 14,000 junior-grade staffers.

“The BMC administration does not want BEST to survive. It wants it to die so that they can privatise the transport body,” said Ravi Raja, member of the BEST panel, the policy-making body of the undertaking. He said that BEST had sought funds for capital expenses, but BMC has given funds only for ITMS and the funds are not sufficient for the project scheduled for March-end.

Experts said BEST is being treated as an orphan, with neither BMC nor BEST giving it any attention. “It is not the matter of an inter-departmental fight. It is the issue of the city’s public transport system. How can it be ignored despite lakhs of people depending on it,” said Vidyadhar Date, convener, Amchi Mumbai Amchi BEST, a public forum for saving BEST.

First Published: Feb 07, 2019 00:40 IST