The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply, and Transport (BEST) Undertaking will get a much-needed financial boost as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in its annual budget on Tuesday, proposed a grant-in-aid worth Rs 1,500 crore for the 2020-21 financial year.
The allocated funds will be used for day-to-day expenditure, repayment of loans, wet-leasing new buses, fulfilling financial obligations arising due to employees and upgrading the Intelligent Transport Monitoring Service (ITMS) to make sure it spreads across different platforms. Despite the allocation being less than that for FY 2019-20 - Rs 1,941.30 crore, BEST committee members did not seem dejected.
In order to woo Mumbaikars, for the first time, the BMC allocated funds under a separate head to BEST for providing subsidies to its riders. The civic body has allotted Rs 3 crore for the FY 2020-21 to provide 50 per cent concession in non-AC fares for senior citizens carrying RFID cards issued by BEST.
For specially-abled commuters, the BMC has allotted Rs 6 crore for FY 2020-21. The civic body plans to provide 100 per cent concession in fares to blind and differently-abled commuters travelling on non-AC buses.
Also, to ensure financial stability the BMC aims to reduce the cost per kilometre of operating buses by 15 per cent. Presently, this cost for the BEST is Rs 130, which the BMC aims to bring down to Rs 95.
“Over the last few years, the BEST fleet did not cope with public requirements and this led to a growth in private vehicles, which has led to higher traffic congestion and fuel consumption,” according to the BMC.
BMC commissioner Praveen Pardeshi also asserted that strict conditions of performance have been imposed on the transport body.
“Strict conditions of performance have been imposed on BEST in lieu of these grants. Apart from reducing the cost per kilometre of operations, BEST is also expected to increase revenues through better management of its leased properties and ensure recovery of funds as per the findings of the BMC,” stated Pardeshi on his statement. Presently, 231 buses are being procured on wet lease. By March 2020, 1,240 wet-lease buses are expected to hit the roads. The BMC said, by March, BEST ridership is expected to go up to 45 lakhs which will contribute to 20 per cent of the total share of passengers.
BMC leader of the opposition and BEST committee member Ravi Raja said the proposed budgetary allocation is welcome, as it will ensure the undertaking escalates service order to recoup its losses.