Soon after Undertaking appoints new chairman, BJP demands salaries for BEST staff, while Congress questions why the party’s man at the helm didn’t do anything about the issue last year
The Shiv Sena has found an unprecedented ally in Congress. Yesterday, when Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar entered the BEST committee room at the Undertaking’s headquarters in Electric House, Colaba, BJP members started thumping the table, demanding salaries for the 42,000 BEST employees for February. And while the Sena was trying to pacify them, Congress leaders jumped into the fray and blamed the BJP for not doing anything last year when the party had its man as BEST chairman.
Rift wide open
The ruckus happened in the afternoon during the function where new chairman Anil Kokil from the Sena was appointed.
"For the first time in the history of BEST, salaries haven’t been paid; there’s been so much delay. The mayor needs to promise us that salaries will be paid. If something is not done soon, they could go on a strike," said Sunil Ganacharya, BEST committee member from BJP.
Other BJP members too demanded that BMC political higher-ups, such as standing committee chairman Ramesh Korgaonkar, participate actively in getting the Undertaking out of the mess. "Let the BEST election procedure get over. We will surely sit together and find a way out for it," said Mahadeshwar.
Ganacharya added, "The BMC should waive off the balance R700 crore loan given to the BEST. Rather, it should make arrangements for the BEST in its budget."
The BEST administration claims that it incurs monthly expenditure on salaries and emoluments to the tune of R184 crore but doesn’t have money for that.
Cong for Sena
"I am trying to do everything possible to ensure that employees get their salaries. Until that happens, I won’t accept any felicitation or the official car from the BEST. I will also try to ensure that people get better bus services, as well as help in addressing the losses incurred," said Kokil.
But the onslaught from BJP continued, as Mahadeshwar exited the building without answering much. And then came Congress to the rescue. "It is good that the chairman has given a speech, which normally doesn’t happen after appointment. But why is the BJP forgetting that it had its man as chairman in the previous term who didn’t do much about BEST’s financial condition," said Ravi Raja, BEST committee member from Congress.
Sena leader and BEST member Suhas Samant said, "It is surprising that none of the BJP members came for the garlanding of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Babasaheb Ambedkar statues (which is done to welcome the new chairman). Moreover, instead of simply blaming Sena-led BMC, why isn’t the state doing anything about BEST’s losses?"
Number of BEST employees
Rs 700 cr
Loan given to BEST remaining to be paid off
Rs 184 cr
BEST’s monthly expenditure on salaries and emoluments