Mumbai: Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) management has planned to bring in 1,000 midi and mini AC buses on wet lease throughout the city to increase the number of commuters daily. The announcement was made during a budget meeting held on Thursday. The proposed plan is expected to bring in 1,000 new commuters on a daily basis, stated BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde.

Meanwhile, Surendrakumar Bagde faced opposition from the employees’ union of BEST who got a stay order from the court on the plan to procure wet lease. According to a Times of India report, the leader of BEST Workers’ Union Shashank Rao has disapproved the idea of wet leasing as the privatisation scheme in BEST would result in workers risking their jobs.

The wet lease model enables private contractors to own, maintain (such as taking care of the fuel costs) and drive the newly introduced buses. Bus depots will be provided to the private contractors for parking. The BEST, on the other hand, will generate income from advertisements and deploy conductors to collect revenue from selling bus tickets.

The introduction of circular bus routes with midi buses in areas such as Churchgate and Dadar has resulted in a surge in passengers. Many passengers who were earlier plying through share taxis have now switched to BEST buses, said Bagde.

BEST panel member Sunil Ganacharya observed that only Rs 18 crore could be saved if the wet lease model is to be adopted. At the budget meeting, Ganacharya reportedly said that the savings amounting to Rs 18 crore is a meagre amount when compared to the annual losses of nearly Rs 1,000 crore that the transport wing incurs.

The decision of BEST to privatise its fleet has drawn flak from its own committee members. For instance, BEST member Shrikant Kavthankar reportedly said that even if BEST is firm in its decision to procure small buses on a wet lease, the execution of the proposed plan would take a very long time.