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Mumbai: NCMC card runs into political bump

11:14 PM Sep 21, 2021 | Shashank Rao

The Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport’s (BEST) plan of introducing seamless travel has run into a political bump. On September 21, the Shiv Sena-led BEST committee cleared the proposal for the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) and an application that can issue digital tickets. However, the BJP cried foul that it was passed arbitrarily and that it was not given an opportunity to raise issues.

On Tuesday, the BEST committee meeting started at 1.05pm at its headquarters in Colaba. “BEST Chairman Ashish Chemburkar announced and cleared around five proposals worth more than Rs 100 crore one after the other in a matter of five to six minutes. Never before has the committee cleared proposals so quickly. We weren’t even given time to raise our points over these proposals,” said Sunil Ganacharya, BJP leader and committee member.

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One of the proposals at the forefront was the implementation of the NCMC card. It can be used to commute in all modes of transport, be it BEST buses, Metros and local trains. The same proposal includes the creation of an application for ticketing. The contract has been given to a contractor for Rs 85 crore for a period of six years. However, the BJP alleged that proper procedure wasn’t followed while allotting the contract.

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Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena claimed that the BJP is unnecessarily politicising the issue. “When I announced the proposal number and spoke about the subject, no one raised their hand or indicated any objection. We felt that the proposal received from the contractor, who won the bid, was the best for the contract,” said Chemburkar.

The BEST administration claimed due process was followed while selecting the new contractor. Sources in BEST said that, in 2016, when they had given a contract for the Smart Card, it was worth at Rs 105 crore or so. “This time, we gave a contract for the NCMC card and application at Rs 85 crore. All processes were duly followed,” said a BEST official on the condition of anonymity.

BEST became the first public transportation service in India to roll out the NCMC and as per the initial plans. More than 10,000 BEST conductors will be given the handheld devices. The card will eventually be in use to commute in local trains, wherein season ticket holders will be able to top up the card and purchase tickets. The NCMC was conceived by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and launched in March 2019. It also enables the user to pay for travel, toll duties (toll tax) and shopping, amongst others.

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