mid-day editorial: BEST, start living up to your acronym

To stem its ever-mounting financial losses, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking tabled a proposal before the Maharashtra Electric Regulatory Commission (MERC) to recover their deficit, which ran into Rs 5,537 crore from Mumbaikars by levying ‘transport cess’ for the next four fiscals.

Among the few options that BEST mentions is asking consumers of all power distributors — which are Reliance Infra, Tata Power and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited (MSEDCL) — to share the burden of its losses, a report in this newspaper stated yesterday. It also said that citizens across Mumbai will need to pay for it.

BEST cannot pass on shortfalls to Mumbaikars, who naturally buy tickets when they commute by its buses. If the transport arm is struggling, it is unfair to expect people to pay via higher electricity bills.

The Mumbaikar has already seen his electricity bill soar in the recent past. Summer months are here and since the air-conditioner has become more of a necessity than a luxury, people are bracing for higher bills.

Instead, the BEST needs to look in the mirror, identify its problems and shortfalls, and work zealously to overcome competition from various other arms of transport, to start living up to its acronym — the BEST way to commute in Mumbai.

The fares have gone up substantially, so let us see a similar effort in terms of service. Higher fares should go in tandem with better service too. Cut down on delays and take a close look at the frequency of bus services. Repair broken seats and overhead loops quickly, so that commuters are not inconvenienced.

The pressing ‘change’ problem needs to be addressed at the earliest; no change is the primary reason so many commuters have turned off the service.

There are a host of ways in which BEST needs to scramble to make commuters start crowding its buses again. You cannot pass on shortfalls to the already heavily taxed Mumbaikar. Certainly not the BEST way to solve the problem.

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