If you take electricity from Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), get ready to shell out more on the bills from next month. Not because of any hike in power tariffs, but because BEST’s transport wing is suffering losses. And you are expected to make up for them. You will have to help BEST keep afloat its creaking fleet of buses by paying something called ‘bus charges’ in your electricity bill.
BEST wants to make good its transport division’s annual loss amounting to Rs 215 crore by taking this money from its 10 lakh power consumers in the island city. As approved by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), the power charges will include a factor of bus charges to indicate the component you pay toward losses of the transport wing. “This simply means that those residing in the island city will pay for the suburbanites travelling in BEST buses,” said Ashok Pendse, power expert.
For someone else’s ride
For bus commuters, it is a windfall. Their ticket costs are being partly borne by BEST power consumers residing downtown. There are around 4,700 buses in the BEST’s fleet of which, on an average, over 300 buses remain off the road every day due to snags and breakdowns. These buses run in the city and the eastern and western suburbs; some crisscross the city’s divisions.
After a recent bus fare hike, the undertaking expects to earn an additional Rs 160 crore in this fiscal from its loss-making transport wing. Despite this, the 10 lakh power consumers, who reside in the island city and do not generally use the bus services, will literally cross-subsidise the 42 lakh bus commuters of BEST.
According to the charges approved, those consuming between 0-100 units will have to pay 55 paise per unit towards bus charge. Similarly, consumers in the brackets of 101-300 units, 301-500 units and above 501 units, will pay Rs 1.03 per unit, Rs 1.44 per unit and Rs 1.85 per unit respectively. For long consumer organisations and power experts have been opposing this system from being put into practice as they feel it would be unfair.
BEST officials refused to comment outright on its justness, saying that Supreme Court has given them the permission. “This is a component of losses faced by the transport department and has been approved so it can be charged in the electricity tariffs,” said a BEST official on condition of anonymity. BEST will start charging this new electricity slab from June 1, helping it slide out of its overall annual deficit of Rs 3,400 crore.