In order to cover its shortfall in revenue amidst the lockdown, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has slashed its budgetary expenditure by Rs 2,500. Among the cuts announced, it has cut its financial aid to the cash-strapped BrihanMumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking by Rs 500 crores.
In February, the civic body had announced an aid of Rs 1,500 crore for the undertaking, of which it had paid Rs 500 crores to the undertaking so far. Meanwhile, with local trains being discontinued, BEST buses had emerged as the lifeline of the city. BEST General Manager Surendra Kumar Bagde had announced last week that the undertaking is planning to increase its fleet to 6,000 buses in order to make road transport more accessible for the public.
Presently, BEST has 3,400 buses. Earlier, in 2019, the undertaking had procured 300 buses on wet lease. "The chances of adding more buses into the fleet appear slim now, as the budget is being slashed by a significant margin," BEST committee member and BMC leader of opposition Ravi Raja told the Free Press Journal. "BEST is a public undertaking and without aid from the government and/or the civic body, it won't be able to revive itself," he added.
BEST representatives also stated that, in the last six months, the daily earnings of the undertaking has fallen by a significant margin. "The daily earnings of BEST used to be more than Rs 25 crores, while now the undertaking is earning only Rs 2 crores daily," stated BEST committee member Sunil Ganacharya.
Meanwhile, officials of BEST management had stated that the fleet will be increased in a phase-wise manner and the new buses will be taken on a contractual basis. "BEST has planned to increase its fleet in a phased manner and it will take the new buses on wet lease, which will save us revenue," a senior BEST official told FPJ.
It's quite evident that there's a heavy requirement of buses on the streets of Mumbai now. “Maybe the increment of buses will not happen at one go. But it will happen slowly," he added.