In an unexpected move, Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar on Thursday announced Rs 100-crore assistance every month to the cash-strapped Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). For the last two years, the BMC had refused to extend financial aid to the utility.
Thursday’s financial lifeline was announced in a BMC group leaders’ meeting chaired by the mayor and attended by newly appointed municipal commissioner Pravin Pardeshi.
The assistance, however, comes with riders. BEST will have to submit a review/audit of how it spends the money every month.
Another condition prevents BEST from using the money to buy new buses, which the undertaking has been demanding for the past two years.
The assistance will also be provided only for six-seven months after which it will be reviewed. The civic body also plans to send an auditor from its accounts department to BEST to review the spending of the money.
“The municipal commissioner has agreed to provide assistance pending review. Merger of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and BEST budgets and commercial use of bus depots were also discussed in the meeting,” said Ravi Raja, Congress group leader.
The proposal to provide Rs 100-crore monthly assistance to the BMC will be put before the civic body’s standing committee for final approval.
BEST and labour unions were at loggerheads with former municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta after he refused to provide financial aid to the loss-making undertaking.
If it expects to receive any grants, the utility must cut down on additional expenses and implement cost-cutting measures, the BMC had said.
BEST has been facing financial losses to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore. Mehta had turned down the demand for financial assistance to the undertaking in the 2019-20 civic budget, saying BEST continues to make losses on account of inefficient operations.
“Leave alone improvement and enhancement of services, there is no financial strength to even sustain the present operations,” Mehta had said while making a modest provision of Rs 34.10 crore for capital investment in BEST.