For a Delhiite, one of the main attractions Bombay (that’s how aamchi Mumbai was then known as) offered was its swanky, glistening, shining red fleet of local buses run by Bombay Electric Supply & Transport (yes that’s what was the full form of BEST). This impression was immortalised in our minds by Bollywood movies and photos of Mumbai published in magazines and journals. In contrast, the fleet of Delhi buses (managed initially by DTU which became DTC) was rickety, inconsistent (changing colours from originally red to green to blue to what not), dangerous and unreliable! We used to hear that this colour and the shine on Mumbai buses was on the lines of London’s local buses and that BEST had a bus washing plant at its Colaba depot, where buses got a thorough wash everyday morning before hitting the roads!
Then this Delhiite became a confirmed Mumbaikar availing of the local transport viz. suburban railway and BEST buses. While there was nothing much to complain about the efficiency of the local transport and discipline of the commuters, somehow that shine and polish of yore was amiss! Buses were still red and double deckers offered a glorious view of Arabian Sea while playing on iconic Marine Drive, the exteriors were dirty, soiled, dented and not maintained.
Day in day out, we hear about the losses being accumulated by BEST and especially its transport division. No amount of fare increase seems to be offering cure for mounting losses! On top of it we keep on hearing murmurs about the privatisation of BEST!
Do we maintain public property only if it makes money? Isn’t public transport of a mega city it’s lifeline requiring attention and care? Doesn’t it reflect the very ethos of the city the very identity? Like several other vanishing icons of this great city, will the London like, efficient, adorable, dependable, disciplined BEST will also be consigned to the annals of history becoming a topic of lore for the next generation?