In a bid to earn additional income, the wives of 600 former defence personnel from six districts of Maharashtra have come together, via self-help groups (SHGs), to set up a transport company. They pooled in resources to buy 44 buses and leased them to the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML). The buses are all set to ply on city roads from this Sunday.
To buy the buses, the women contributed from their own savings, took bank loans and are awaiting financial assistance from the state Sainik Welfare Board. Forty-four SHGs from across the state have bought one bus each for the transport company — Vishwa Yodha Shetkari Multi Trade Pvt Ltd — which is based in Satara district. The company has already signed an agreement with PMPML about plying their buses for the next seven years, with an average distance of 6,000 km per month at a fixed rate.
“The Sainik Welfare Department implements various schemes for welfare of soldiers and their families. There are many programmes taken for upliftment of ex-servicemen but such an initiative – setting up a transport company with contribution from wives of ex-servicemen through SHGs – is a first-of-its-kind initiative,” said Colonel (retired) R R Jadhav, officiating director of state Department of Sainik Welfare.
“This will help wives of former defence personnel to earn additional income and simultaneously help the PMPML ply more buses for local residents in the Pune metropolitan region,” he added.
Suresh Godse, an ex-servicemen from Satara who suggested the idea to Jadhav during his tenure as the Sainik Welfare Officer of the district, said, “It was not easy going… with an initiative of such a big scale, and an investment of Rs 18.04 crore from the wives of ex-servicemen. Fortunately, there was support from all the stakeholders as they contributed in their own way to turn the initiative into reality.”
Manisha Gujar, president of Vakratund Maji Sainik Mahila Swayamsahayatta Bachat Gatt in Jaitapur in Satara, said the SHG she is part of has been taking such initiatives for additional income. “There are some small projects which help us earn, but the bus initiative has increased our hopes about earning a substantial amount. It was difficult to convince all the members to participate in the initiative, but later everyone contributed towards it…,” she said.
To buy the buses, each of which cost Rs 41 lakh, the Bank of Maharashtra has given a loan of Rs 34 lakh, at a lower interest rate, to each of the SHGs, while the rest has been contributed by the women.
While the company will get a lower rental amount from PMPML, it has accepted this term as the transport undertaking has taken its service without the tender process.
“Each of the women SHGs will get Rs 25,000 per month as income while Rs 7,000 will be contributed to the company for administrative expenditure after deducting the overall expenditure of the bus if it runs for the entire month,” said Godse, adding that each SHG will receive an additional income of Rs 60,000 per month after the loan is repaid in approximately five years.
“The buses will start running from Sunday. All the 44 buses will be inducted in the PMPML fleet in phases since the public transport company is slowly restarting its services after the lockdown,” said Rajendra Jagtap, chairman and managing director of PMPML.
Currently, the PMPML has allotted a separate bus depot at Gujarwadi near Katraj for parking buses, he said. “The buses were procured a few months ago… but the initiative was stalled due to the lockdown. However, the bank has given a moratorium of 11 months and a request has been made to extend it further by six months,” said Jadhav.
To fill the posts of 180 employees, including 119 drivers and 38 mechanics, among others, preference will be given to “family members of ex-servicemen,” said Jadhav.