Hundreds of employees and members of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking workers union, gathered at the Azad Maidan ground on Wednesday, to protest the delay in merging the BEST budget with that of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Earlier, the workers had planned to march till Mantralaya from the Byculla Zoo. However, Mumbai Police had denied permission for the same. As a result, the members had gathered at the Maidan.
“The only solution to ease the financial burden of BEST is to merge its budget with BMC, this will save the misery of all the front-line workers who have been on the field since the pandemic outbreak,” said Shashank Rao, chief of BEST workers union.
“The Shiv Sena had promised the budget merger in its election manifesto back in 2019, but now it appears they have forgotten their made promise,” Rao added.
The proposal of merging the BEST and BMC budgets was floated in 2019, however, to date a decision is yet to be taken. Meanwhile, in the 2021-22 financial budget, the BMC had stated, instead of merging the budget, it will appoint a contractor who will professionally guide the undertaking towards improving its finances.
Senior BEST committee member, Sunil Ganacharya was also present at the rally. Ganacharya stated, according to the rule BEST needs to maintain its own fleet of 3,337 buses wherein the number of BEST-owned buses has now fallen below 2,200.
“The BEST has become entirely dependent on wet-leased buses acquired from private contractors, this way it is causing more financial loss to the undertaking,” said Ganacharya.
“The BEST has stopped recruitment drives, more than 3,600 front-line workers are yet to get their gratuities, in such testing times the BEST administration has turned a blind eye to the real problems of the workers,” stated Ganacharya.