Mumbai: BMC Snubs BEST's Plea For ₹1,400 Cr Aid; Asks To Look For Ways To Generate Higher Revenue

Mumbai: BMC Snubs BEST's Plea For ₹1,400 Cr Aid; Asks To Look For Ways To Generate Higher Revenue

BEST, a century-old entity, faces multiple challenges, including delayed bus deliveries and frequent protest threats from wet lease bus operators. However, its most pressing issue is financial: it has been accumulating losses and its loans have soared to ₹6,000 crore.

Prathamesh KharadeUpdated: Monday, June 24, 2024, 11:23 AM IST
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Mumbai: The financially struggling Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking has requested ₹1,400 crore in aid from its parent body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to manage its severe financial issues. According to a report by Hindustan Times, during a recent meeting, the BMC suggested that BEST should actively explore revenue generation options, hinting at a potential bus fare hike, which would be the first in nearly 6-7 years.

BEST, a century-old entity, faces multiple challenges, including delayed bus deliveries and frequent protest threats from wet lease bus operators. However, its most pressing issue is financial: it has been accumulating losses and its loans have soared to ₹6,000 crore. Additionally, it needs ₹600 crore just to pay gratuity and pensions to retired employees.

In its 2024-25 budget, the BMC allocated ₹800 crore to BEST for various expenses, including infrastructure improvement, equipment procurement, loan repayment, leasing new buses, implementing an integrated traffic management system and covering Diwali bonuses, gratuity, electricity dues and daily operational costs.

BEST Asked To Explore Revenue Options

A senior BEST official told HT, “We have sought financial aid worth ₹1,400 crore from the civic body over and above what was allocated in the budget.” During the recent meeting, the BMC stressed the need for BEST to identify new revenue streams. "We require more funds because in the past, higher amounts would be allocated for BEST. But we have been asked to look for revenue generation options. A hike in bus fares is the most likely option, which needs to be worked out,” the official explained.

In March, BEST had already increased prices for daily, weekly and monthly bus passes, with the steepest hike affecting monthly passes with higher trip counts.

In addition to potentially increasing bus fares, BEST is considering redeveloping its bus depots to boost revenues. Depots in Dindoshi, Wadala, and Deonar have been shortlisted for redevelopment. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is in discussions with BEST to facilitate this redevelopment through a public-private partnership, handling architectural designs, development plans, and cost estimates.

Meanwhile, BEST employees and social activists insist that the BMC should provide the necessary financial support to stabilise the transport utility. Shashank Sharad Rao from the BEST Workers’ Union reportedly stated that they have demanded that the administration should ensure a fleet of 3,337 buses. Additionally, the budget should be merged with the BMC for better financial health.

Rupesh Shelatkar, head of the NGO Aapli BEST Aaplyasathi, spoke to HT on the issue and said, “It is the civic body’s duty to fund BEST buses, and they cannot shy away from it. When crores of rupees are being spent on other projects, why can’t they fund more buses which the city needs? Presently, the wait period for buses has increased to 30-40 minutes.”

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