In an unusual turn of events on Tuesday, a proposal to reduce BEST bus fares in the minimum slab by Re 1 was passed after discussions in the BEST committee meeting on Tuesday, only to be withdrawn after the BEST administration objected to the move.
At the meeting on Tuesday, the Shiv Sena proposed a reduction in fares in the minimum slab by Re 1. Its alliance partner BJP maintained that there shouldn't be any change in the existing fares. After a debate, the proposal was also passed at the BEST Committee. However, it was then objected by the administration and the proposal was then withdrawn by Shiv Sena members themselves who are at the helm of the BEST Committee.
This is the first time that a proposal mooted by a committee member is approved and withdrawn within a matter of minutes. The BEST has proposed a hike in fares for travelling 6 km and beyond from the existing Rs 14 to Rs 15.
Similarly, after every 2 km, the fare will go up by Re 1. Against this proposal, Shiv Sena member Rajesh Kusale mooted that the BEST should reduce the minimum fare slabs of 2-4 km by Re 1 so as to compete with share autos and taxis.
This would ideally mean that the minimum fare would have been Rs 7 and the next slab would be Rs 9. When this proposal was mooted, it went for voting between the different Committee members belonging to various political parties. As no one from Congress were present, the five members of Shiv Sena went in to approve this, while the four members of BJP remained status quo; thus the proposal to reduce minimum fares by Re 1 got approved.
This would have come as a big jolt for the loss making BEST as they have posted deficit of Rs 880 crore in 2018-19 while in the previous financial year of 2017-18 they showed deficit of Rs 590 crore. Their parent organisation -- BMC -- has already asked them to come out with cost reduction and revenue augmenting measures. For this, the BEST has also identified five major reforms that is expected to earn them Rs 653 crore per annum. However, this sudden approval of reduced fares would make matters worse for the Undertaking.
This is when Surendra Bagde, General Manager of BEST appealed to withdraw this decision of the Committee members. "A reduction in minimum fare would not make much difference to people who have already accepted the Rs 8 as minimum fare. So I appeal to the members to withdraw this proposal as the BEST is already facing severe losses," said Bagde at the meeting.
Soon after, the chairman Anil Kokil, who is also from Shiv Sena stated that in order to save the BEST stern measures needs to be taken. What happened next was withdrawal of an approved proposal which until now has not happened at least in recent past. "I had proposed this (reduction in fare) so that it would attract more people; as it is fares for long distance was being hiked. But the Chairman and administration were apprehensive about it and so I withdrew the proposal," said Kusale to DNA.
The approved fare charts will now be sent to the BMC for final approvals after which it will be implemented.
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