The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has drawn the ire of private bus operators over the proposal of antimicrobial coating in buses, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even as the bus corporation plans to spend over Rs 9.5 crore on antimicrobial coating, it still owes Rs 6 crore to private bus operators for leasing around 250 Shivneri and Shivshahi buses, which haven’t been running due to low demand during the pandemic. MSRTC officials said they are aware of the issue and are “working to pay the dues soon”.
The MSRTC also owes nearly Rs 5-6 crore to a few private bus operators for both AC and non-AC buses. A member of the private bus operator association said the dues have been pending for 15 months. Meanwhile, operators have been struggling to repay EMI for their vehicles, besides trying to provide jobs to drivers and cleaners, maintain buses and operate at least 37,000 buses in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
The MSRTC’s pandemic plan comprises painting 10,000 buses with antimicrobial coating at a cost of Rs 9,500 per vehicle. Spray surfaces will include seats, hand rests, windows, guard rails, driver’s cabin, flooring, rubber glazing, doors, and luggage compartments. Officials said the coating will prevent the growth of microbes like viruses, bacteria, and fungus.
The vehicles will be sprayed in two phases. While the first coating will be sprayed once in six months, the second coating will be done every two months. Two firms have been identified for the project, wherein one will apply coating twice a year, and the other six times annually. A third party will check the efficacy by taking surface swabs.
Officials said the move will help alleviate the fear of using buses during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the MSRTC ridership was 65 lakh per day; it has now fallen to 18 lakh.