Nagpur: Are the finances of cash-strapped Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) taking a hit with the introduction of Green Buses that are running on city streets? A dig at the affairs answers the question in affirmative. Since nine years ago, when the NMC launched the Starbus service, it had never incurred financial losses in the business. But, now, it is staring at a loss of Rs 100 crore per annum.
It is a known fact at the NMC that for the last couple of years private companies have come up with big-ticket developmental projects that are of interest to a top politician. The office-bearers and officials at the civic body then have no choice but to execute the project. The launch of the Green Bus operator with the highly expensive ethanol-run buses is a fine example.
First, Swedish bus-maker Scania Commercial Vehicles India Private Ltd launched one ethanol-run bus — now named Green Bus — n association with the NMC and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in August 2014. Suddenly, in March 2015, Scania’s officials arrived in the city and revealed their plan to launch 55 Green Buses in the city. At the NMC, nobody had a clue about this. Its officials were not even aware that the first bus was already at the city’s doorstep and parked at an ethanol-producing company.
Six months after Scania’s announcement, expectedly, the NMC came up with a proposal seeking funds from the Central Government for procuring and operating 55 Green Buses. But the Centre said no. At the beginning of the year, the cash-strapped NMC started the tendering process to appoint a Green Bus operator. The condition that the operator should have the experience of operating 250 ethanol-run buses for a period of five or more years clearly eliminated Indian companies as no one in the country had qualification. By August, Green Bus operator was finalized and by none other than Scania.
The Green bus operator, along with three Red bus operators, was launched in a grand programme that was held on December 5, 2016. Yet another twist was in the making. The NMC made provisions for the Green Bus operator to run the buses appointing a second party. This was nothing but a ‘favour’ as it had never extended the same privilege to Starbus operator Vansh Nimay Infraprojects Private Ltd whose services have now been terminated.
To further ease the process for the operators, the NMC came up with a new system that the operators will have to only operate the buses and not do the ticketing. Another interesting fact came to fore on the day of launching the new city bus service system: The company where the Green Bus was spotted has ended up supplying ethanol worth lakhs to the pilot bus so far.
Now, there is a talk on buses run on bio-gas. Already, the process to permit Scania for producing bio-gas at Bhandewadi dumping yard has been started. No prizes for guessing which company will get the contract to run bio-gas buses.