'Why does BEST need 95 colour printers?'

At a time when the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) is trying to recover from huge losses, it has come to light that they have excess computer equipment obsolete software and hardware in their office premises and bus depots. The BEST members, many of whom belong to different political parties, claim that there are way too many servers, central processing units, monitors and printers, which are not required. Most of the equipment is labelled with unknown brand names, and the members claim they are assembled pieces that require more maintenance.

The committee members have questioned the presence of 95 colour printers, which according to them are not required, as it is not a creative agency or printing press where such equipment is essential. In the last five years, BEST administration was operating on one of the most outdated computer software to maintain its data of electricity consumers, time and attendance records of the staff and their service schedules.

If this isn’t enough, the hardware doesn’t support the current software, nor do they have any IT policy in place that has the necessary guidelines. This IT mess has sprung up at a time when the BEST promises to get tech-savvy with its foray into GPS-based bus routes, payment of electricity bills using cellphones and other e-systems.

“There are 113 servers for 25 depots. At a time when servers can be connected via LAN and better networking facilities, we are still dependent on the hopelessly outdated MS DOS operating system. Moreover there are 95 laser colour printers. Are we some creative firm where such high-end printers are required?” questions Kedar Hombalkar, BEST committee member from MNS, who is an IT professional. “At a time when people are moving from desktops to laptops, there are just 88 laptops while there are 2,846 CPUs and 1,732 printers. There is a need to formulate a proper IT policy to ensure that there are no problems,” said Sunil Ganacharya, BEST member from Shiv Sena.

BEST admits
BEST administration had admitted that there are several issues concerning their IT system. “It is true that our computerised system is three-generations behind, when compared to the present technology available. In fact, the counting of inventories began only two years ago, although all the 25 depots were computerised by 2003,” said OP Gupta, general Manager, BEST undertaking.

Tender scrapped
Now, the administration has also cancelled tenders for reviving the IT systems for Kurla and Chincholi Bunder bus depots. At both these depots, BEST was in the process of getting new servers. They have now scrapped this tender and have set up a five-member committee to investigate the reasons behind the flawed IT system, with the BEST being made to work with redundant software over the last five years. They are also thinking of formulating a proper IT policy, gradually.

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