Mumbai, 2 November, 2018 (GPN) : On the face of bankruptcy and downfall owing to spate of issues that happened lately the BEST UNDERTAKING took a historical step today announcing 5500 Rupees Diwali bonus for its employees.
The BEST is facing losses of more than Rs 1,000 crore. In the budget estimates released for 2019-20 on Monday, the undertaking has showed an estimated deficit of Rs 844.71 crore for its transport wing.It plans to increase its fleet size from 3,337 to 4,050 buses by March 2020.
On October 26, the collector had sealed two bank accounts of BEST for non-payment of nutrition and passenger tax. While BEST pays passenger tax of 3 per cent on ticket fare revenue to the government on an yearly basis, passengers are charged a nutrition tax of 15 paise on their ticket fares. Senior officials said that both nutrition and passenger taxes amount up to Rs 60 crore every year. In a statement, the BEST said: “The Transport Commissioner/Transport Department has been trying to recover more than Rs 500 crore from BEST on account of passenger tax and nutrition surcharge. Due to non-payment by BEST due to its current financial condition, recovery was initiated by the Collector, Mumbai city.”
In this regard BEST Chairman Ashish Chemburkar met state Transport Minister Diwakar Raote to ask for a stay on the sealing of bank accounts.
“As soon as I came to know about the matter, I rushed to the Mantralaya on Wednesday to ask the minister to intervene. While there is a temporary stay on sealing of our bank accounts, we plead to the state government to consider BEST’s financial situation and grant us laxity. Similar to the way the state government relaxes norms for transport utilities in other cities, including Pune and Ahmednagar, they must look at BEST as well,” he added.
The undertaking has got the state government’s approval to spend Rs 3.5 crore on operating and maintaining more than 6,000 defunct electronic ticket vending machines (ETVMs) for another six months, after its committee junked the proposal.According to BEST officials, M/s Power Craft Pvt Ltd has been awarded the contract to maintain the ETVMs for around Rs 60 lakh a month.They said around 70 per cent of the 9,500 ETVMs bought by BEST are not functional. An official said most of the machines are beyond repair since they have been in use for over five years. “There has been tremendous wear and tear, and the batteries have been damaged. So, they have to be replaced. Even the motherboards have broken down; they, too, will have to be replaced.”
Another official contended that while most of the ETVMs have turned into junk, some could be salvaged.
A senior BEST official admitted that the undertaking’s committee had rejected the plan. “The proposal has been approved by the state’s urban development department.”Ashish Chemburkar, BEST committee chairman, alleged that the administration is running the undertaking in an arbitrary fashion. “The BEST committee is not taken into confidence. The paper tickets mechanism is working well and the BEST has already floated tenders for its new smart card ticket plan. So, there was no need to award a new contract to maintain old machines. I don’t think any company can get the old machines to work,” he said.BEST General Manager Surendra Bagde said the BEST committee’s rejection of the proposal stands suspended. “This is only a temporary arrangement until we get a new electronic ticket vending mechanism in place. We are spending only around Rs 50 lakh a month. We are spending nearly the same amount on paper tickets.”
BEST decided to go back to issuing paper tickets in January this year, after renewing a fiveyear contract in November 2016 with Trimax IT Infrastructures and Services Ltd to design and handle ticket collection through ETVMs, on the grounds that the contract was riddled with “irregularities”. This move came after Bagde submitted an exhaustive report to BMC chief Ajoy Mehta listing the reasons for scrapping the Rs 108-crore contract with Trimax.