Diwali Bonus

Diwali is not only about lights, crackers and sweets, it’s considered auspicious for almost everything. Businesses start s new bahi khata or accounts after Lakshmi Puja. There are Diwali gifts, vacations and bonuses to be had. A diamond merchant of Surat, who is known for gifting generously on Diwali gifted flats last year and Mercedes this year to his meritorious employees.

What has, however, really gladdened my heart is the decision by BEST to give Diwali Bonus of Rs.5500 to each one of its 40000 employees. This news is especially satisfying as it came on the heels of another story that BMC was planning to freeze all the bank accounts of BEST for non payment of dues of around Rs 500 crores by the transport corporation. It would have been extremely shameful had a cash rich but inefficient organisation stifled a cash strapped but highly dependable public utility corporation.

Having had the first hand experience of brazenly brash, indisciplined, road hogging and aggressive DTC drivers, my respect for BEST and its staff runs deep. They drive responsibly (largely) , halt at all designated stops, are considerate to old, infirm and pregnant and the conductors are hard working going from passenger to passenger for issuing travel tickets. Ticket examiners play their role efficiently and responsibly and double up as traffic wardens when there are traffic snarls at unmanned crossings. Fleet is good though I see more instances of break downs and washing of buses has been consigned to history. It has also not been able to manage its fleet of AC buses though its much smaller, younger and poorer cousin NMMT ( transport corporation of Navi Mumbai) is managing its fleet and affairs much better! But on the whole, they do remarkably well given Mumbai’s roads, it’s population density and number of vehicles per square meter of road. I am actually so enamoured by its past glory that I had earlier dedicated a blog to BEST and its once shining red fleet, including double deckers that was at one point of time comparable to London’s local bus fleet.

In strict commercial sense, bonus is paid out of profits. But when a corporation does not decide its fare structure, has no control over fuel prices, has to constantly struggle with funds to maintain and timely upgrade its fleet, its unreasonable to call such an organisation inefficient and punish its staff. If local trains can be subsided, there is no harm in subsidising the second lifeline of Mumbai instead of dwelling on funny ideas of privatising it, rationalising its fleet and above all freezing its bank accounts. Let’s restore the past glory of this fine corporation. Happy Diwali to all the BEST staff!

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