Sources claim the figure is in addition to the 350 buses that lie non-operational in depots; blame shortage of adequate quality staff, resources and supplies 

BEST buses honking their way through the city's traffic have long been a regular sight for Mumbaikars. But a new memory of the indispensable buses -- stranded on roadsides broken down, blocking traffic, ejecting passengers flitting around till another bus comes to their rescue -- is fast replacing the old.  The breakdowns, say harried commuters, are getting more and more frequent.

Full stop: As per the statistics available with BEST, around 9,000 working
hours of a BEST bus are lost during a month because they break down.
File Pic

If BEST sources are to be believed, every day on an average around 130 buses go kaput. Not to mention the 350 buses that have to stay back in depots daily because they cannot even work long enough to make a sputtering start.

BEST officials say the major problems are the lack of adequate quality staff for the upkeep of the buses and a shortage of oil and lubes, spare parts and so on. As per the statistics available with BEST, around 9,000 working hours of a BEST bus are lost during a month because they conk out.

"Right from cleaners to mechanics and workers -- the people involved in the maintenance of a bus -- around 600 posts are lying vacant," said Suhas Samant, BEST committee member, who also heads the BEST Kaamgar Sena.

Issues galore
This is a critical gap in the BEST ranks and sources claim that there have hardly been any efforts towards selection of people to fill these vacancies. Moreover, they claim that engineers and technically qualified people working for BEST are quitting the undertaking for the handsome pay packets in the private sector.
Then there are maintenance issues. "Although the administration is trying hard to reduce the number of breakdowns, there is still a shortage in the availability of oils and lubricants needed for repair works," said Sunil Ganacharya, BEST committee member.

Tech trouble
The situation is way worse for King Long buses that, more often than not, are found lying nonfunctional in depots due to technical issues. Recently, the BEST administration had stated that the expansion of the bus fleet by 25 per cent wasn't accompanied by a commensurate plan to enhance the infrastructure support.

With the addition of 1,000 buses since 2010 under JNNURM, the breakdown numbers have increased substantially. BEST purchased single-decker buses running on CNG of which 32 are air-conditioned, 247 are Midi buses and 353 are regular single-deckers, adding to the fleet of 4,700 buses.