BEST committee questions delay in fulfilling MoU terms

In January, BEST employees had gone on a historic nine-day strike and put forward key demands such as eliminating the wage disparity.

In January, BEST employees had gone on a historic nine-day strike and put forward key demands such as eliminating the wage disparity.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Asks administration to initiate talks with trade unions

The administration of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking on Tuesday was questioned by the BEST committee members over the delay in implementing the terms of the MoU it had signed with the BEST Workers’ Union and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on June 11.

The workers’ union has threatened to go on an indefinite strike from August 6 if the administration fails to comply with the terms of the MoU. The committee members told the administration to honour its word and initiate talks with trade unions to devise a new wage agreement. BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde assured the committee that the talks would start soon.

The committee asked the administration if the BMC had provided the financial aid it had promised to release every month to meet the BEST’s working capital deficit. Mr. Bagde said, “The BMC has given us ₹300 crore till now, of which ₹100 crore was disbursed in July.”

The committee pointed out that the BEST’s current fleet size is around 3,200 and the MoU mentions that it would have to be expanded to 3,337. The BEST can procure the remaining buses on a wet lease model, under which they will be owned and maintained by private operators. The BMC had agreed in the MoU to release funds to purchase more buses. The committee asked the administration if the BMC had released these funds and if the administration had raised such a demand.

Sunil Ganacharya, committee member from the BJP, questioned the legality of the MoU. He wanted to know if it had the same validity as a registered agreement. Mr. Ganacharya said, “Please tell me if there has been any prior instance where an agreement inked between the administration and the union, and ratified by the municipal commissioner, has bypassed the BEST committee.”

Srikant Kawathankar, another committee member from the BJP, said the BEST could not operate all its buses because it is in need of 979 conductors and 834 drivers. “We will need to employ around 10,000 conductors if the fleet is going to be expanded to 6,000 buses. Is there any roadmap for this?” he asked. Mr. Bagde informed the committee that 3,100 BEST buses operate daily and recruitment plans will be drawn up once the new buses arrive.

37 buses for women

After a delay of nearly two years, the BEST committee on Tuesday approved a proposal to procure 37 buses under the State government’s Tejaswini Scheme. Under the scheme, the State government provides a grant to public transport operators to procure buses exclusively for women. In 2017, the administration had proposed to hire these buses on lease, but it was opposed by the committee members.

On Tuesday, committee members directed the administration to ensure that buses are optimally used. “Operate the buses from all depots, instead of limiting their operation from Colaba and Dadar depots. The buses are for all women in Mumbai,” Anil Patankar, BEST committee chairman, said.

According to the BEST’s proposal, the midibuses will be purchased from VE Commercial Vehicles Limited for 10.91 crore with the first prototype bus expected to arrive in 45 days and the remaining within five months. Mr. Ganacharya asked the administration to speed up the process. Ashish Chemburkar, member from the Shiv Sena, pointed out that since the BEST fleet has buses only of Tata and Ashok Leyland, it would be difficult to maintain these buses. Mr. Bagde said proper training will be provided to BEST employees for maintaining these buses.

“BEST is in dire need for extra buses as the number of passengers have surged after the fare reduction,” he said. Mr. Bagde informed the members that the BEST ferries over 30 lakh passengers daily, up from around 25 lakh barely a week ago. The BEST’s has already placed orders for 480 more buses, which include 80 electric buses.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 9:52:03 AM |

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