What’s my city bus doing on the airport runway?

Dear Uddhav Thackeray, may I point out that 20 brand new air-conditioned buses are not actually used by BEST on Mumbai’s roads.

Ivor Soans May 26, 2011 17:50:12 IST
What’s my city bus doing on the airport runway?

Dear Shri Uddhav Thackeray,

At the outset, I must confess that I’m not a fan of your party’s ideology and especially its methods. Perhaps the only issue where I agree with your party is that the Centre tends to ignore Mumbai. I guess it’s natural — when we Mumbaikars suffer the bits of road in Mumbai potholes, as compared to Delhi’s great roads; when we bemoan the snail-like pace of construction on the first line of Mumbai’s Metro as compared to the speed at which the Delhi Metro sprang up — it’s but natural that we are aggrieved.

After all, your party tells us Mumbai contributes 40-60% of India’s taxes —only to see development happening in Delhi. Now, I’m not sure whether that 40-60% figure is somewhat like the claim that 74% of NASA employees are Indians, but that’s not the point.

The point, the question I have for you is this: even if the Centre and some of the worthies who make up the ruling classes in Delhi are ignoring Mumbai and sinking all of Mumbai’s hard earned money on assorted Metro railways, stadiums and the world’s most expensive toilet paper used at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, why is your party throwing away even the crumbs that come our way?

Whats my city bus doing on the airport runway

Just drive down to the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, where BEST has leased out these 20 buses to Cambatta Aviation, rather than deploying them on city roads where they are desperately needed. Reuters

Take the BEST Undertaking, run by Mumbai’s civic body where your party rules. In an era where comfortable public transport is desperately required to take more cars off the road to reduce congestion — especially since all of Mumbai’s money is blown up in Delhi and there’s not much left for infrastructure development here — and the fact that lesser cars mean reduced pollution and more, the BEST Undertaking runs a grand total of 284 air-conditioned buses.

Two hundred and eighty four. Only 284. Which is why most car owners would rather use their cars daily and contribute to Mumbai’s pollution and congestion— they have no real choice.

I understand that it’s not easy for a civic-run transport organisation to build a large fleet, and that in time hopefully BEST will run far more air-conditioned buses and give citizens a real choice when it comes to comfortable public transport. But even as your party and BEST work hard towards that, may I point out that 20 brand new air-conditioned buses are not actually used by BEST on Mumbai’s roads.

Just drive down to the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, where BEST has leased out these 20 buses to Cambatta Aviation, rather than deploying them on city roads where they are desperately needed. And eight of these buses are funded by the Centre under the JNURM programme. If this is not wasting even the crumbs that come Mumbai’s way, what is? And let me repeat — brand-new, air-conditioned buses. On Mumbai’s roads I see creaky buses with cracked windshields often held up by paper (yes paper!) stuck on them, water leaking from AC vents, etc, while all the good buses are at the airport.

To take an example of a route I often travel on, some back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me an extra bus deployed could do at least 3-4 round trips if used for merely 12 hours in a day. The last bus on this route leaves Andheri Station at 8:45 pm everyday but if you pass by even past 10 pm you’ll still see people coming to the stop to see if by some stroke of luck and good karma a bus is available, because the last bus is running late. So, don’t tell me there is no demand.

The BEST Undertaking informs me that the buses were leased out to NACIL (the company formed after the Air India-Indian Airlines merger) as “there was some emergency for NACIL". Granted, Air India is a mess, but surely they can find some buses to use at the airport?! My taxes are already being wasted on funding Air India, and now even what could be used to give me a choice in comfortable public transport is being wasted?

And if the BEST Undertaking has leased out these buses to NACIL, why is the Cambatta Aviation name painted on their sides? Something really stinks here.

So, here’s a humble request from a Mumbaikar. While your party continues to fight with the Centre and demands that 25% of taxes collected in Mumbai should be returned to Mumbai; even as you might want to find out who BEST has actually leased these buses to, how about first getting these 20 buses back on Mumbai roads?

We desperately need them.

Sincerely,

A tax-paying Mumbaikar desperate for comfortable public transport.

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