In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
The AC buses plying on the BEST network in Mumbai, known as King Long buses, are in fact manufactured by JCBL in Mohali and have nothing to do with the Chinese bus maker, except few parts here and there
Commuters travelling by the AC buses run by the BEST Undertaking in Mumbai are furious at learning that the King Long buses that cost around Rs40 to Rs45 lakh are not even made in China but in our own Mohali and that too by a local manufacturer using few parts from the Chinese company. Mumbai Mirror revealed this today after an RTI application.
“Investigations carried out by this paper have revealed that King Long buses, sold to us as top-of-the-line Chinese import, are not King Long buses at all. The purple buses you see breaking down every now and then have nothing to do with the Chinese bus maker Xiamen King Long United Automotive Co, except a mechanical part here and there. The rickety clunkers that have given the usually efficient BEST a bad name are Cerita buses put together by an Indian company JayCee Coach Builders (JCBL) at Lalru, Mohali in Punjab,” the newspaper said.
Transport experts are also furious at this blatant lie and misuse of a brand name. “This (the revelation) is undoubtedly a terrible stuff. As a large buyer of buses, BEST should take due care in the specifications, technical audit for all the buses that it buys,” says Ashok Datar, a transport expert.
"We need to understand the cost of so called King Long buses and what would be the cost of actual King Long buses," says Mr Datar, adding that there is definitely a need that Mumbai can get a number of low cost but good quality AC buses. "AC buses, in addition to the luxury high end buses, costs about Rs1 crore. Investment in such buses is equal to Rs3 lakh per seat which is more than Rs2 lakh per seat for an ordinary AC car. We know that for a bus, cost of interest, depreciation and employees works out to be about 2.5 times that of fuel cost. Hence cost of a bus is more important than the cost of fuel," he said.
Uttam Khobragade, the then GM of BEST, labelled these AC buses as ‘King Long’
During the inauguration ceremony on 15 December 2007, both the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Uttam Khobragade, the then GM of BEST referred to these buses as King Long, says Mumbai Mirror. "Interestingly, though the first bus carried the Cerita logo on its nose, it was not clearly visible because of the elaborate floral decoration. The media - both print and electronic - lapped up the Chinese connection and in those days, when Shanghai was Mumbai's aspiration, the lie suited everyone," the report says.
For years Mumbai has been sold the lie of these haphazardly put-together vehicles with a ridiculously high incidence of breakdowns—4,037 in two-and-a-half years for 285 buses—boasting of a Chinese lineage, the newspaper report said.
Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), which manages the public transportation on city roads has been lying throughout the years, officially and unofficially about these problematic AC buses. Speaking with Mumbai Mirror, BEST General Manager OP Gupta, who took over recently, admitted that the 285 buses known for their poor performance in his AC fleet are Cerita and not King Long. “Yes, these are Cerita buses and not King Long. Their warranty period has expired and we have taken a decision to not buy any of these buses ever again. In fact, when I took over, I stopped delivery of 38 of these buses that still had to be acquired,” he told the newspaper.
Following a fire mishap in 2010, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) decided to rest all its fleet of about 15 of these so-called King Long buses. Similarly, these buses while plying in Mumbai also faced same situation, one at Cadbury Junction in Thane and another near Huma Ad Labs on LBS Road. But BEST still continues to ply these buses across the city.
An activist who has campaigned for an efficient school bus system in Mumbai, says, "In order to encourage usage of public transport, an efficient public transport service is an absolute necessity. The fleet of buses, therefore should, most certainly be safe, durable and comfortable for the public to avail of this service. BEST are now in deficit of buses in their fleet, therefore the facility offered to the public is also greatly insufficient!"
Khobragade, the then GM of BEST when these AC buses were introduced in services, told the newspaper that since the matter is too old, he can't remember the specifics.
A retired IAS officer who has worked with Khobragade says, "I agree that Khobragade is 'corrupt' and may have conspired on the King Long deal. But the question is will the Government prosecute him?"
According to news reports, last month around 100 King Long buses were used during the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games. About 10 XMQ6127 buses were even appointed as franchised vehicles by Olympic partner Samsung Company to serve OCOG officials, athletes, referees and volunteers.
Corrupt people take shelter under the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that “until proved guilty”. If we miss the opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation
In November 2010 writing on “Demand and supply of corruption in India” Dr Bimal Jalan made the following observation on the working of the watchdogs of governance in India: “Investigations are carried out, guilt is established, appeals are filed but nothing much happens after that. Years pass; courts, people and the media soon move on to other cases.” The same feeling, in different situations has been finding expression through word of mouth, media reports and on faces of aam admi captured by electronic media and telecast across the world.
The simmering discontent in the minds of one billion people who toiled to make India rich and were denied any share in the end-product of their work is there for all to see. This discontent is finding expression in various forms, some peaceful, some violent, and most of the time as statistics on hunger deaths, increasing number of people going down the “poverty line” which itself is defective and designed to camouflage real situation. The political leadership is being blind to the realities when they are trying even at this late hour to resolve the issues being focused in well-intentioned movements like the one spearheaded by Anna Hazare. The issues get dodged or diverted by raising trivial differences of views, where the real problem is the fear of any ‘watchdog’.
India has an array of politicians, statesmen, businessmen and bureaucrats who do not face corruption charges. These eminent individuals have a moral responsibility to help the country pull out of the present crisis. UPA (United Progressive Alliance) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had exhorted for “zero tolerance” to corruption while addressing Congressmen in Allahabad sometime back. Her vision did not find takers even among her followers inasmuch as the government guided by her failed to take steps to ensure that at least people facing huge corruption charges did not hold public offices. While convalescing in the United States last year, Sonia Gandhi once again remembered the need to tackle corruption and on return to India promptly requested her party to do something about it.
Going by the dictionary meaning, the word corruption is associated with words like bribe, cheating, evil, badness, decayed, stinking, decayed, false, defilement, wickedness, violation, defective, spoilt, faulty, wrong, malignant, offensive, immoral, unchaste, vile and fallen (the list can go on). Suffice to say, anyone or any institution/organization having something attributable to any formations out of any of these words can be alleged to be corrupt. Luckily not so. It is generally accepted that what is legal is not corrupt. Then, like morality, the perception of corruption varies from individual to individual, society to society and country to country. Meaning, what is construed as legal in one context need not be so in another context.
For the rich and the powerful, there will always be legal remedies, as, historically, the laws are made and interpreted in their favour. No wonder, while really corrupt people take shelter under legal interpretations and the age-old protection available to those facing allegations to the effect that until proved guilty, the benefit of doubt would go in favour of the accused, eminent statesmen and innocent common man get dragged into controversies related to corruption, despite their efforts to maintain high moral and ethical standards in their own lives. In the deluge of corruption that the world is witnessing today, no Krishna will be able to float on a leaf unaffected by the deluge. The value system which is in disrepair globally needs a shock treatment. The initiative can come from India, if the nation decides to make every embarrassment an opportunity to correct and move forward. This can be done only by handling individual corruption cases on the basis of the facts of the case and not with reference to the impact such action will have on coalition government’s equilibrium or the immediate inconvenience or discomfort some individuals will face.
There are several ‘current’ corruption cases which compete between and among them as to which one has more quality ingredients of immense possibilities for multiplying personal net-worth without any value addition. While on the subject of corruption, one is reminded of a quote from Kautilya:
“Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water, even so officers appointed for carrying out works cannot be known when appropriating money. It is possible to know even the path of birds flying in the sky, but not the ways of officers moving with their intentions concealed.” (Kautilya Arthasastra, 2.9.33, 34)
Leaving political in-fights and probes by various agencies to take their course, management institutes like IIMs and academicians should consider seriously studying the most ‘popular’ corruption cases of recent times such as 2G spectrum auction, Common Wealth Games and the allegations against family members of former CJI K G Balakrishnan having amassed wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income. As, generally, management institutes have a soft approach to squandering of money by private sector enterprises, to protect the interests of private sector, subjects like a comparison between the managements of Air India and Kingfisher Airlines with their counterparts in India and abroad also could be done.
The cases cited are illustrative meant to indicate that they are multi-dimensional in nature as stakeholders include politicians, ministers and government officials and a dispassionate study by academicians may bring out socio-economic issues that may have to be addressed as part of the fight against corruption. The study should aim at unearthing the connections or nexus between and among stakeholders at various levels and come out with suggestions/recommendations about the safeguards that can be built into the system to minimize recurrence of similar instances. The safeguards could include, stricter penalties for economic crimes, denial of party tickets to ‘tainted’ politicians for fighting election, periodic publication of names of individuals/organizations involved in economic offences involving, say, Rs100 crore or more and voluntary/automatic vacation of public offices by individuals occupying high public offices and facing allegations which courts or government agencies like CBI admit for investigation.
If we miss this opportunity to cleanse public life and allow our position in international assessments to drift further, it may take ages to redeem the country’s reputation.
(The writer is a former general manager of Reserve Bank of India. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
Journalistic ethics apply not only to the print media but also to the electronic media and there is no reason why electronic media be not regulated by a statutory body says the Press Council