BEST, the public transport service provider in Mumbai, will operate a bus shuttle from the airport to various parts of the city only if it gets a dedicated lane. But experts have criticised the BEST’s pre-condition as unacceptable
Moneylife reported yesterday how the absence of a dedicated bus shuttle at the Mumbai airport is leaving passengers stranded at the airport terminal for as much as two hours sometimes. (Read, You have landed at Mumbai. Where's the shuttle to go home? Part 1.) The problem is the scarcity of pre-paid taxis which are also expensive and the refusal by regular autorickshaw and taxi drivers to ply over short distances.
Transport experts are unanimous that a special bus shuttle with adequate luggage space for passengers going to and coming from the airport is required urgently. It should be well-connected with South Mumbai and the central and western suburbs, on the lines of a similar service that is available in Bangalore and Hyderabad.
However, BEST, the public bus transport operator that has a monopoly in Mumbai, has a different take on this. When Moneylife asked BEST why Mumbai doesn't have a bus shuttle transport to the airport like that in Bangalore and other cities, the chief public relations officer replied, "We are ready to start a dedicated bus service to the airport only if we are provided with dedicated lanes by the government and MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority)."
This reply has surprised activists, who say that the demand is unviable, in view of the overall transport situation and the traffic congestion in Mumbai.
"I am surprised that BEST needs a bus lane for starting a bus service to cater to all persons and passengers going to or coming from the airport to various parts of the city," says Ashok Datar, transport expert. "Literally thousands of people visit the airport every day, the proportion of those using buses is negligible as the buses are away and apparently meant for the employees. There are no bright indicators on the availability of buses to various areas with enough info and publicity. This is the basic reform."
BEST, currently, has a bus service to the airport. But it is a regular service used mainly by the staff working at the airport. "The current service by BEST is a regular one. Even for that the frequency of buses is less, and worse, the bus stops are often not visible," says Mr Datar.
Sudhir Badami, another expert, believes that the BEST should focus on the viability of starting such a service. "Such a reply demanding a dedicated lane to provide a dedicated bus service to Mumbai airport is inappropriate. Instead, the BEST should focus on bargaining on the viability of the buses, the fares, which RTO wouldn't allow to hike, and overall economic viability of the service. If they don't consider such things, then even giving a dedicated lane would prove unviable."
Jagdeep Desai, architect and founder trustee of the Forum for Improving the Quality of Life in Mumbai Suburbs, says that the demand for a dedicated lane is only an excuse not to provide the service. "Looks like some excuse to not give a service. Incidentally, some of the BEST buses of the JNNURM King Longs (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) were leased to Air India to transport passengers to and from the aircraft to the airport. This means they have surplus buses. Besides, the auto and taxi unions, as well as the fleet taxis, would also have a strong say in resisting such convenient and comfortable services."
Activist lawyer Mohana Nair recalls one such bus service by the BEST to the airport. "BEST had started a bus service from the airport (Sahar) via Santacruz to Colaba. It was not air-conditioned, but it was one of their star buses with a place in the centre for luggage. I remember seeing it in Sahar and talking to the conductor who seemed very proud of what they were doing, but said most people did not even know such a service existed. This was maybe three years ago, and it was discontinued as they did not have enough people travelling on it," she told Moneylife.
However, activists point out that the bus service should have enough luggage space, with a frequency of 15 minutes and the shuttle service should be easily identifiable.
Bangalore International Airport (BIAL) has a Volvo bus service, by the name of Vayu Vajra, that offers air-conditioned comfort to passengers and is available round the clock, providing connectivity between important areas of the city and the airport.
Similarly, in Hyderabad, the Aero Express bus service to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport is a non-stop airport shuttle service from the airport connecting important destinations in the city. It is run by the GMR group. At Delhi airport, a recently started train service, the Delhi Airport Express, provides easy transport to passengers.
The best way to cope up with rising interest rates on home loans is to make part pre-payments, says Satish Kumar, national credit manager, mortgages, ICICI Bank
The best way to manage your mortgage in a floating-rate regime and to keep your monthly payments under check is to budget for making regular part pre-payments over the tenure of your loan, Satish Kumar, national credit manager, mortgages, at ICICI Bank, said today. He was speaking at a workshop by Moneylife Foundation.
With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) having hiked interest rates 12 times in 18 months, dealing with higher equated monthly instalments (EMIs) is a reality that all borrowers have to live with. The workshop aimed to inform and educate savers on how to borrow safely and navigate the interest rate storm.
While the government and policymakers advise lending institutions to extend loan tenures instead of raising EMIs, the borrowers face a dilemma over whether to keep their EMI constant or their tenure constant on their mortgage, for which the cost implications are significantly different. "If you have any long-term loan, plan to make part pre-payments," Mr Kumar said. The payment made will directly get adjusted with the outstanding principal resulting in a lower interest payout. Most banks do not charge any part pre-payment penalty.
Mr Kumar also suggested that borrowers who receive an income hike should start saving to make a lump-sum part pre-payment rather than going through the hassle of increasing the EMI. He also said that opting for an increase in EMI would be a better option as the interest burden is reduced. However, the decision would depend on the borrower's ability to service the higher EMI.
At the start of his presentation Mr Kumar cleared the common dilemma faced by new borrowers, whether it is a new property or resale, whether to buy now or later, and whether to go for a fixed interest rate or floating rate loan. While the choice of property depends on individual preference, Mr Kumar said people who have the funds in place should go ahead and buy the property if it is for personal use, since no one can really predict future interest rates.
He also said that most often people who end up in a debt trap get into trouble because of multiple borrowings. Having availed of a home loan, they also take personal loans and auto loans. For bankers, defaults on the smaller value loans are usually the first sign of a possible problem. Mr Kumar cautioned people against multiple borrowings, especially in times of rapid interest rate changes.
Mr Kumar also spoke on the obligation of joint owners and about the clearance of the property title. Joint applicants are equally liable to pay for the loan even if they are not joint owners of the property or are earning members. Usually, joint owners are unaware of their obligations.
Mr Kumar suggested individuals should do their own legwork to get the title of the property checked. Presently, 90% of the activity is manual. Hence one could take the services of a lawyer to check the property title.
Responding to a question on the insurance charged by banks along with the home loan, Mr Kumar said that though it was not compulsory it was essential to be adequately insured. If the loan is insured, the balance payment of the loan is cleared by the insurance company in case of death of the borrower. This would save the family and dependants additional financial stress.
Post the seminar, the participants had an opportunity to have their personal queries resolved in a one-to-one discussion with ICICI home finance experts.
The labour face-off, spearhead by Maruti Suzuki workers, is spreading all through the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt. The Haryana government is blaming the workers now
The Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt unrest, spearheaded by the Maruti Suzuki face-off, seems to be getting worse. Yesterday, (19th September), Haryana labour minister Shiv Charan Lal Sharma blamed Maruti workers' "adamant" attitude for the breakdown of talks with the company management.
"Workers are not agreeing to come back to their jobs unless those workers who have been suspended and dismissed are taken back by the management," Mr Sharma said, while expressing disappointment over the workers' stance.
According to Mr Sharma, it is not possible for Maruti Suzuki to take back workers, against whom an FIR (first information report) has been filed and criminal cases have been launched.
The clash between the Maruti Suzuki management and workers has been going on since 29th August. The management had prevented workers from entering the factory premises unless they signed a "good conduct" bond, after alleged sabotage and "deliberate compromise" on the quality of cars being produced.
Workers had also been accused of attacking a group of supervisors when the labour unrest took a violent turn last week. There seems to be a glimmer of hope—talks will again start today to end the deadlock.
But what is the ground reality?
A drive towards that belt revealed more red flags up and running in this now-troubled industrial and commercial belt than seen before. But more interestingly, and symptomatic of the real gravity of issues there, some industrialists have been seriously looking at relocating. This could be to another state in India—or even the UAE. One unit which used to provide speciality generators, has already done so.
People who run industrial units in this area have been murmuring about the cost of doing business having gone up—to almost one-third of turnover. Where the units are linked to European or American interests, the anti-bribery laws in their home country make matters very difficult, as far as compliance norms are concerned. There are only so many one-line bills from 'consultants' or others that the auditors will accept. In addition, the forthcoming anti-corruption laws in India, which do not seem to realise and accept the gravity of the situation for entrepreneurs—who have to pay for everything or else see their business go kaput—are beginning to worry people too.
What kind of impact will this have on the automobile industry, which had its nursery in the Gurgaon area with the advent of Maruti Udyog, is out there clear to see and the writing is on the walls of the trucks idling outside the Maruti Suzuki factories. It is not safe to pull out a camera due to the heavy presence of police and private security, and Maruti Suzuki's well known heavy-handedness towards media—which is not "co-operative"—is real and true.
But a drive there and back without the bandobast of a PR junket would be essential soon for motoring and business media currently trotting out an "All is Well" as though they are the jailors in Bimal Roy's classic Bandini.
All is not well in the Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt, India's largest car manufacturer has the industry at stake there, and why does it feel as though they are playing things to a plan?
And clearly, the government is not pitching for the workers. Haryana labour commissioner Satwanti Ahlawat has said that protesting workers are being misled by "certain elements" who do not want the matter be resolved. "During the talks, it came to notice that there is a clear intention of a few persons, backed by some political support, who want to mislead workers," she said. Ms Ahlawat added that at the instance of the Labour Department, the management had agreed to consider taking back those workers against whom the charges were not serious.
Meanwhile, the face-off continues—and the auto industry is on tenterhooks.