The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking to expand its fleet size to 7,000 buses within three months as a condition to receive grants from the corporation.According to a proposal, the BMC is willing to initially provide ₹600 crore to the ailing bus transport undertaking but has laid certain conditions. It has asked the bus undertaking to reduce the minimum fare of mini buses to ₹5 from the current ₹8. BEST will be asked to submit a report to the BMC after it complies with the conditions. The proposal will be discussed in Wednesday’s Standing Committee meetingSoon after taking charge, Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi had taken a decision in May to give a grant of ₹100 crore to BEST. In a meeting with the BEST administration, the BMC had recommended wet leasing of buses to increase its fleet, giving real-time updates of a bus’s current location at bus stops, commercial exploitation of BEST assets, among other meausres.The BMC had said the BEST administration needed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the BEST Workers’ Union to settle the long-standing dispute over the wet leasing of buses. The crucial MoU was signed last week, where the administration agreed to retain 3,337 buses of its fleet while the union allowed for further fleet expansion through the wet lease model. BMC will be giving the BEST ₹600 crore as subsidy, out of which ₹400 crore will be given from its contingency fund and the rest from another fund available with BMC.Once the proposal is passed in the Standing Committee and agreed upon by all parties, the BMC will disburse ₹100 crore to the BEST. However, further disbursals will happen only once the administration starts implementing the conditions. The BMC will have to create a new budget head, for which it requires permission from the Standing Committee and corporation.Activists have said the reduction of fare was a welcome step but only if executed across all routes, and not in a piecemeal manner. “We feel grants should be made unilaterally and not with conditions to wet lease. BEST is, after all, a public service,” transport expert Hussain Indorewala said.A senior BEST official said the condition to procure 7,000 buses was difficult and the issue of fare reduction will need to be analysed better. “Our main focus was to ensure the execution of the contract given for 450 buses. We want to ensure that the buses arrive in the next few months and their operations begin,” the official said.
Over a lakh people from 20,000 families have been moved to safety as local residents, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and the Armed forces are pulling out all the stops to rescue those stuck in water-logged areas in Kolhapur and Sangli districts.The districts are experiencing the worst deluge since 2005.Sixteen people in five districts — Pune, Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Solapur — in western Maharashtra have lost their lives over the past week. Around 1.32 lakh people from these districts have been evacuated till Wednesday, Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar said.Chairing an emergency meeting in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said rescuing women, children and patients was the priority, and directed the administration of the flood-hit districts to make alternative arrangements for food, essential items, and drinking water.Mr. Mhaisekar said four teams of the Territorial Army are engaged in rescue operations in Kolhapur and one team has reached Sangli. While six NDRF teams are already in action in Kolhapur, six more are on their way by road. One Navy team is in operation in Kolhapur.“Air connectivity has been established over Kolhapur since Wednesday morning with five more Navy teams to be dispatched via air over the district,” he said. The deluge has completely thrown State Transport bus services in Kolhapur and Sangli out of gear. With 89 roads in Kolhapur under water, the district is completely cut off from the rest of Maharashtra.The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast heavy rain for Kolhapur in the next 48 hours.“From Wednesday night till forenoon of August 9, we expect heavy to very heavy showers to hit the ghat areas, including Kolhapur,” Anupam Kashyapi, head, weather and air pollution monitoring unit, IMD, said.