The cash-strapped state government-owned Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) is now staring at the risk of losing Rs 75 crore in subsidies from the Centre. This as the corporation is yet to decide if it wants to induct 80-odd electric buses into its fleet after being the first state transport body to conduct trials in 2014.
The subsidy was promised as part of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles scheme by the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, and is set to expire on March 31.
A meeting is set to be held on Saturday to decide on the matter finally.
Speaking to TNM, three-time Congress MLA and chairman of BMTC NA Haris, â€śWe donâ€™t want to miss the subsidy but the time is too short. We have a board meeting tomorrow and we will decide then. I have just come in, the Managing Director is also a new person, so it is a new team. We will decide based on what is best for the organisation.â€ť
While the BMTC had initially mooted the idea of leasing electric buses owing to the low financial burden, Transport Minister DC Thamanna pushed for purchase which led to a conflict within the organisation since November 2018. Meanwhile, the Managing Director under whom BMTC had finalised a leased deal with a Hyderabad-based company through a tendering process was also transferred.
Even though the BMTC fleet has not increased in years, the National Green Tribunal has banned the purchase of BS-IV standard buses and asked BMTC to buy only electric or CNG buses. Compared to CNG buses, the maintenance cost of electric buses is lower ensuring better revenue compared to the presently used diesel buses.
An IISc study has found that replacing a diesel bus with an electric bus reduces up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission annually. Even the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has asked the BMTC to phase out its exiiting BS-III buses.
Commenting on the issue, Shaheen, Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike, a bus usersâ€™ forum, said, â€śDespite all this controversy, the main issue is that the city needs more buses. The idea of targeting BMTC to curb pollution is also misguided as is using electrical vehicles. Most of our electricity comes from thermal power plants so if not in Bengaluru, there will be air pollution at source. The thrust should be on curbing private vehicle usage and ensuring increase in number of buses and if itâ€™s electric it is even better.â€ť