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Company needs enabling environment to sustain self: Pankaj Joshi

Public transportation networks are seen as force-multipliers, and cannot be subject to profit and loss analysis

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Company needs enabling environment to sustain self: Pankaj Joshi
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Despite the fact that bus services fall under the scope of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), the BEST's bus service is not being treated as an essential public service. It is ridiculous to think that the 90-year-old BEST's financial sub-optimal performance will be redressed simply through its privatisation.

The state needs to introspect on this stalemate situation, and on how we reached this impasse. How has this premier public transport network, one of the oldest in the country, been brought down to such deterioration! Privatisation is seen as this one-stop solution for all problems being faced within public bodies. The government is willy-nilly shirking its responsibility and handing over the reins to private powerhouses. But, the requirement here is not just to streamline BEST's functioning but, to provide an enabling environment for its long-term sustainability as a public service.

Any solution to conserve BEST must start from the premise that it is an essential public service and that affordability is the key to its subsistence. World over, it is a common practice amongst local authorities to heavily subsidise the provision of public transport, profitability being inconsequential. Public transportation networks are seen as force-multipliers, and cannot be subject to profit and loss analysis. In most major cities including London, New York, and Singapore, the public transport system is often cross-subsidised by revenue generated from taxing private vehicles, incorporating congestion charges, high parking tariffs and so on. On the other hand, the financial capital of India is looking at killing an existing institution, that serves lakhs of commuters, because of its short-sighted measures.

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