A DELAY in receiving a loan disbursement has held up the salaries of 42,000 employees of the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking, senior officials said. As a major part of the undertaking’s earnings were utilised to pay installments of outstanding loans till March 10, salaries could not be dispensed. The undertaking usually pays its staff by the 10th of every month. A delay of more than five days in clearing payments has created unrest among employees, with some threatening to go on strike if longer delays prevail.
“The improper functioning of the undertaking must not affect the interest of the workers. We will stage a protest if salaries are not cleared within one or two days,” Vitthalrav Gaikwad, BEST employees’ union leader, said.
“The school fee of my children and purchase of basic food products are dependent on the salary received every month. I will inform the school tomorrow about the delay so that we are not impacted,” a Class IV staffer said on Wednesday.
According to senior BEST officials, the Union Bank had guaranteed a loan of Rs 200 crore to the undertaking around 10 days ago. For the clearance of another Rs100 crore, an approval from its head branch in Kolkata is awaited, they said.
“Soft loans have been taken by the undertaking in the past to help arrange money for loan payments and salaries. As we have exhausted the number of loan withdrawals from many banks, approaching them again does not seem an option,” a senior BEST official said.
The BEST faces a deficit of more than Rs 2,500 crore with a majority of the earnings being utilised for outstanding loan and bill payments. Officials said some monthly installments have to be repaid in time to avoid a surcharge of 18%.
“Most of the BEST employees survive on loans which need urgent repayments. Without any intimation, our salaries have been held up. The undertaking should have at least informed us by when can we expect to receive our wages,” Sunil Mithbavkar, BEST employee said.
“In this case, the regional office of the Union Bank is not competent enough to grant us the loans and they need approval of its head branch. We await the response of this bank as they have agreed to grant us the same at a minimum interest rate. Apart from that, diesel costs of buses and maintenance costs are unavoidable expenditures. Salaries will be disbursed at the earliest ,” Jagdish Patil, BEST General Manager, said.