In order to help the cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Trasport (BEST) undertaking clear its financial dues, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in its annual 2021-22 municipal budget has proposed to provide a Rs 406 cr loan to the transport body at a nominal interest rate.
BEST owes gratuity payment to 3649 employees, for which the transport body will require additional funds for settling the dues. Alongside this, BMC has also announced a financial aid of Rs 50 lakh each for the kins of employees who died due to Covid, while they were on frontline service.
“A total of 101 BEST workers have died during the pandemic in the line of duty and more than 3,600 employees have their gratuities pending. The BMC will transfer the funds to BEST by the end of this month itself so that the dues of the servicemen get settled,” said municipal commissioner, Iqbal Singh Chahal.
BMC also highlighted the need for new action plans for reviving the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking.
For FY 2021-22, BMC has allotted a provisional fund of Rs 750 cr to BEST, alongside this, BMC also stated that a new consultant will be appointed for reviving the financial condition of the BEST.
“To be able to reduce their expenditure and increase their efficiency level, BEST needs to undergo major organizational reforms,” stated Chahal.
“BMC will appoint a consultant of international standards, who will assess the financial condition of the undertaking and professionally advice the transport body in improving its financial position,” Chahal added. He also maintained that BEST will continue to be a public entity and will not be privatised.
Last year, the civic body had allotted Rs 1,500 cr to the BEST undertaking. However, owing to the pandemic, the amount was slashed by Rs 500 cr later.
During the lockdown, BEST had emerged to become the lifeline of Mumbai, as red buses had been ferrying emergency staffers in the absence of railways, as a result, the civic body had also offered a COVID grant of Rs 60 cr to the BEST in the last year's revised budget.
Last October, BEST had proposed an Rs 1887 deficit budget which was later referred back by the BMC standing committee.
Ravi Raja, BMC Leader of Opposition (LoP) and BEST committee member stated, BEST has now come to a state where it's solely dependent on BMC.
“If BMC stops giving fund, then BEST will cease to exist, the civic body has estimated Rs 750 cr allotment for the transport body, but I guess not more than Rs 500 cr will be allotted to them,” Raja told the Free Press Journal.