It seems Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s poll promise that school children would get free passes for BEST buses has not gone down well with other political parties. At a time when a R591 crore deficit stares in the face of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, committee members representing other political parties believe that Thackeray has gone way ahead in making such a promise. For them it’s nothing but a political gimmick, because even the civic body does not have funds to drag the undertaking out of its present financial crisis.
Speaking at a press conference on January 22, Thackeray had promised that if Sena gets re-elected in the BMC, then students in uniforms would get free travel in BEST buses to and from school. Sources said that these children would mainly be those studying in BMC schools.
Promise without thought
However, within a day of this announcement, BEST committee members have raised their voice in protest saying that the promise was made without thinking of the undertaking’s financial health. Speaking to mid-day, Chairman of the BEST committee Mohan Mithbaokar said, “The BMC told us that they don’t have money despite rolling out a budget of R37,000 crore. Just because the civic elections are round the corner, such announcements should not be made.”
A BEST official claimed that it’s difficult to fulfill such a promise as the undertaking is already struggling to deal with its financial crisis. Moreover, they are also providing rides at R2 to blind persons, for which R1 crore is provided by the BMC annually. The official also mentioned that they are providing concessions to school kids under 12 years of age, but it was impossible to provide free rides.
Speaking on the issue, BEST committee member Ravi Raja said, “The undertaking will suffer a loss of Rs 20 crore every year if school kids are given free rides. Also, the civic body should pay for the losses if such a thing happens.”
Rs 20 Cr
The estimated loss that BEST will suffer if school children are given free rides