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Politics over BEST bonus

The state government should incur the expenses required for paying bonus to BEST employees says Sunil Prabhu.

BEST-LeadEven though the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) employees have deferred the strike to November 4 but the civic body has urged the state government to bail out the loss making transport undertaking. Earlier the BEST workers had threatened to go on strike from October 26 to 28 in support of their demand for Diwali bonus.

Shiv Sena MLA Sunil Prabhu said, “The state government should incur the expenses required for paying bonus to BEST employees. It must offer subsidy to BEST a practice which is followed by other states.”

President of standing committee Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) Yashodar Phanse too came forward with similar demands. Thus a political colour has been given to the bonus issue by the civic body by putting the ball in the Chief Minister’s Devendra Fadnavis’s court.  Earlier the BJP had held the Shiv Sena responsible for the alleged irregularities in the nullah cleaning work and also demanded for a probe. Of late the relations between the Shiv Sena and BJP had strained over issues like Ghulam Ali concert and Kasuri book launch. Sena has always expressed its dissatisfaction over the functioning of the BJP. It also criticises BJP in the party mouth piece Saamna.

It will be interesting to see what decision Devendra Fadnavis takes over the bonus issue. BEST has been unable to pay bonus to its workers since last three years as the transport body is incurring heavy losses. This year too the BEST is expressing its inability to pay bonus to workers citing the same reason. The decision pertaining to paying bonus to workers will be taken after a discussion with the chief secretary, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief and BEST chairman, on November 3. A surcharge of 15 per cent is imposed on power bills of customers staying in island city as a “cross-subsidy” wherein revenue from BEST’s electricity division is used to offset losses incurred by its transport wing.

The undertaking has suffered an accumulated loss of Rs2,400 crore. A bonus of Rs 5,000 to each of the 45,000 BEST employees could mean burden of around Rs 25crore on BEST, which will eventually be passed on to power consumers or commuters in the form of a tariff hike.

“We have stated all financial facts to the action committee and appealed to them not to agitate. Considering the loans and losses giving any bonus to workers looks difficult. However, a decision will be taken on November 3 at the BEST committee meeting,” said Jagdish Patil, general manager, BEST.

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