Pedestrians complaining of the hawker menace is par for the course but to hear of a whole BEST route being ‘temporarily suspended’ over the issue seems right out of Ripley ’s ‘Believe It Or Not’. On September 13, the BEST undertaking ‘temporarily suspended’ bus route A-118 from outside Dadar (W) railway station because of the problems posed by hawkers. The move comes after the BEST said it had revamped its bus routes earlier this month.
The BEST tweeted on Monday, that it had curtailed this air-conditioned route on MC Jawale Marg near Dadar (W) railway station passing via Kabutarkhana, blaming the congestion of hawkers in this festival season.
“Due to the festivities, this area is extremely crowded. The bus drivers find it difficult to reverse the bus, which could be a safety hazard for passengers as well. So, until the situation improves, we will curtail this bus route,” said a BEST official.
The BEST’s parent organization, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, could easily send the illegal hawkers blocking the roads and bus stops packing, according to people who are perturbed by this decision as the bus goes as far as the railway station. Throughout the day, the undertaking faced flak from people for caving in to the hawker menace.
“It seems hawkers are more important for this city than the @myBESTBus. It is time for authorities to wake up and limit them to hawking zones,” wrote Twitter user Sunil Ghate.
“This is nothing but ‘negative step’ taken by the BEST, which should have exercised their right as a public transporter. The bus route should be made available and whatever changes in bus routes; should be informed to the passenger associations as well. They should ask the BMC to ensure that bus stop area is cleared and space created for the buses to ply,” said a transport expert, AV Shenoy.
Members of the BEST Committee are also astonished at this decision of the administration, especially now that there are mini and smaller AC buses operating on such busy, crowded routes. “I don’t remember that such a decision was ever taken to curtail a bus route as drivers find it difficult to drive in crowded areas. They should have simply written a letter to the BMC and asked them to clear the hawkers,” said BEST Committee leader Ravi Raja.
The smaller AC buses on wet lease are being run by drivers employed by the wet-lease operator. Sources in BEST Unions said that these bus drivers are not as well-trained like those employed by the Undertaking. From September 1, after rationalisation of bus routes, the BEST authorities have reduced the total bus routes from the earlier 484, to 419 now.
Currently, BEST has a daily average ridership of more than 25 lakh bus passengers. There are 3,328 buses in its fleet, of which 1,991 buses are its own. There are 2,190 CNG buses, 288 electric buses, while the rest run on diesel.