BEST way to protest
In the face of fare hikes for BEST bus commuters, MNS corporator Bhalachandra Ambure offers to give up his free 5-year pass, and inspires 28 other representatives of the civic body to follow suit
Being elected as a corporator immediately catapults a citizen to the upper echelons of political circles and gives the elected individual a free ticket to an array of privileges and exemptions. But Bhalchandra Ambure, an MNS corporator has shocked many and inspired some by relinquishing his free BEST pass that entitles him to free bus rides all through his tenure. And to prove that he is not the exception that proves the rule, 28 corporators have followed suit, taking the high road and returning their free passes.
The incident took place at a meeting to discuss the proposed bus fare hikes. In his first stint as a corporator, 39-year-old Ambure, who represents the Tolani college area of Jogeshwari, said that over 90 per cent of corporators are wealthy enough to own cars, thus negating their need to have access to free BEST bus services. “Though a few corporators don’t use cars, they live mostly in the suburbs, far away from the BMC headquarters in south Mumbai, so they would prefer to come by local trains to avoid delay,” he said.
Inspired by Ambure’s gesture, many other corporators also returned their passes to the BEST’s general manager OP Gupta — they include Avinash Sawant, Sanjay Bhalerao, Nisha Majgaonkar, Vaishnavi Sarfare, Sudhir Jadhav, Rupesh Waingankar, Sandeep Deshpande and the MNS leader Dilip Lande. Discussing the fare hike, Gupta said, “In the last 10 years, my salary has been doubled. I’m sure that salaries of other commuters have also enjoyed increment, if not by 100 per cent then at least to an extent. We need funds to run BEST, and we have proposed a minimum hike,” he said. Gupta refrained from commenting on the pass issue.
Shiv Sena corporator Abhishek Ghosalkar, who uses his own car to travel, however, justified the free pass service. “We need passes to travel by bus at least once in a month to know what problems are being faced by commuters,” said Ghosalkar. Dnyanraj Nikam, opposition leader and Congress corporator, said that he had not taken the pass, and also appealed to his corporators to return them if they felt did not need it.
Cost of monthly bus pass
Cost of an annual bus pass
Rs 78 lakh
The amount of money collectively waived to the 232 corporators
The amount of money waived by BEST for each corporator for a period of 5 years