Mumbai: In a tussle between Jay Kumar Rawal, cabinet minister for tourism and Madan Yerawar, minister of state (MoS) for tourism, 11 Hop On Hop Off (HoHo) buses specially purchased from the annual budget of District Planning Committee (DPC) of Mumbai and Mumbai suburb city are rotting at Santacruz depot of BrihanMumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) close to one year. The tussle is apparently over re-designing of already fabricated buses.
The BEST currently run double decker buses for tourist to visit various spots including Gate Way of India, Kamla Nehru Park, various beaches and so many spots. Tourist within Mumbai from across the world visits these spots using double decker tourist bus.
According to official from tourism department, Chhagan Bhujabal, then tourism minister in erstwhile Congress- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had pushed his idea to build special air conditioned bus for tourist to promote tourism. “It was called Hope On Hop Off (HoHo) bus and the bid of M/s H J Services from Mumbai was given the work on Designing, Making and Operating of HoHo bus service.
The official said, “Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) took decision to build and purchase such type of 11 buses from the budget of DPC of Mumbai city district and Mumbai Suburban district.” Mumbai suburban DPC sanctioned Rs 5.60 crore on purchasing seven buses on November 11, 2015 during present Bharatiya Janata Party government. City district DPC transferred the amount to MTDC on March 3, 2016. Mumbai city sanctioned Rs 3.11 crore to purchase four buses and transfer the amount to MTDC on October 9, 2015.
The company designed and build two storied air conditioned buses and handed over to MTDC in June last year. However, instead to begin operation of the HoHo bus service, MTDC kept these buses in BEST depot at Santacruz. The source said, “As the buses are parked unused, it will become scrap in few months.”
According to agreement signed between MTDC and the operator, MTDC has to get part of profit from the company. In first year of operation, MTDC will get 11 percent revenue share, 16 percent in second year, 21 percent in third year, 26 percent in fourth year and 31 percent in fifth year.
Jaykumar Rawal, minister for tourism said, “The bid was given during erstwhile Congress-NCP regime by Chhagan Bhujbal, then tourism minister. The company has no experience to conduct such type of business. Hence, we will appoint new agency and will start operation of the HoHo bus within next two months.”
Madan Yerawar, minister of state for tourism said, “The bus were purchased from the fund reserved for innovative work within budget of District Planning Committee (DPC). This comes under chief minister authority. CM Devendra Fadnavis is keen to start the HoHO service. But I don’t know why the bus service is yet not started.” He said cabinet minister Rawal can give the answer of this delay. He added, as school holidays have begun, children with their parents will get benefit of innovative tourist bus. Ultimately, part of benefit will go in pocket of MTDC.