WHILE the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has hassled commuters, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has earned significant profits, thanks to the government decision.
This past week, the undertaking has seen a twofold increase in its earnings through smart-card top-ups, electricity bill payments and renewal of season tickets. The city’s bus transport system has always seen stiff competition from taxis, rickshaws and other modes of public transport, but recent days have witnessed serpentine queues at BEST depots for smart-card top-ups and power bill payments.
While staff on BEST buses are not accepting Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the corporation is accepting these notes at its depots and for payment of power bills till November 24. “The demonetisation has worked in our favor. The amount of money the undertaking would make in a month or two is being deposited in a day or two. Our earnings have increased manifold,” said Sanjay Bhagwat, additional general manager, BEST.
According to official figures, 4,898 smart-card top-ups were done during November 1-8, earning around Rs 18 lakh for the undertaking. But after the announcement on demonetisation, during November 9-14, smart card top-up number was 5,113, earning almost Rs 39 lakh, twice that earned before, for the corporation.
BEST also earned around Rs 3 lakh from renewal of season tickets for buses, the highest it has earned in a span of five days. Depots at Kurla, Worli, Marol, Colaba and Vikhroli witnessed the highest smart card renewals. “BEST consumers would have tried to use most of their useless notes in topping up their smart cards, whose limit varies between Rs 10 and Rs 10,000,” said a BEST official.
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BEST also made more than Rs 24 crore over the weekend from electricity bill payments. “People did not know what to do with the old higher denomination notes as many even came with higher amounts to make advance bill payments. As this is disallowed under rules, we did not take money for future payments. A lot of people also turned in to pay off dues,” the official added.
The undertaking also introduced a mobile application last month to facilitate e-booking of tickets for commuters.
70% taxis off roads
The cash crunch has hit taxis and rickshaws in the city. According to taxi unions, only 10,000 taxis will be plying till commuters have better fluidity in currency. “Out of the 45,000 kaali-peelis, hardly 30 per cent would be plying right now… It will take 10-15 days for the situation to normalise,” said A L Quadros, union leader of the largest taxi union in the city.
Cab aggregators including Ola and Uber are promoting the use of e-wallets for fare payments.