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One of the world’s great cities, Mumbai has been the hub of the country’s economic and industrial
activity. It has other istinctions too. The Indian National Congress, which spearheaded the country’s struggle for freedom, was founded in Mumbai.
The city has been justly famous for being the most receptive of any in the country to new ideas and trends, particularly to those from the West.
The forward-looking and disciplined ways of its people evoke the admiration of everyone from the other parts of the country who is on his first visit to the city.
And yet, about three hundred years ago, Mumbai was no more than an obscure bunch of tiny islands. They were not even proper islands. Only at high tide they were cut off from one another. Sometime at the beginning of the eighteenth century these ‘islands’ were joined together to form what was to grow into the First City of India. The growth, in area and population, as well as in material prosperity, has been unabated till this day.
It was in the period from 1820 to 1857 that Mumbai took its first strides towards becoming a ‘modern’ city.
The period witnessed many significant changes. The most important of them, probably, was the use of steamships for the voyage to England,
and the opening of the ‘Overland Route’, Mumbai built its first steamer in about 1830. The ship was propelled by the paddle wheels on its sides.
You went by steamer to Suez, then travelled by land to the Mediterranean Sea for taking a boat to England. This was the ‘Overland Route’.
Till then you had to take a voyage round the Cape of Good Hope, and it occupied no less than five months. Now it was a matter of a mere month and a half.
With England thus brought closer, the trade between India and England began to expand. Mumbai started wearing a new complexion.
The entire water-front from Colaba to Mazgaon was soon lined by wharfs, docks and godowns.
Early nineteenth century Mumbai could not have been proud of its roads. Even the so-called main roads were very narrow. Horse-owners would often use them for stabling the animals. The government woke up to the situation in 1806, and issued orders for the widening of the Parel Road and the Breach Candy Road to sixty feet. The Sheikh Memon Road and the Dongri Road were widened to forty feet. Twenty feet was laid down as the minimum width for the cross-streets. The city, as we know, has not yet done with the widening of its roads.
The city underwent remarkable transformation during the sixties of the last century. Wide modern-looking roads were planned. By 1868 the roads from the Elphinstone Circle to Bazargate, and from there to Foras Road, had been completed. Apollo Street was widened. Bellasis Road, and the road linking Babula Tank with Elphinstone Bridge, were laid during these years.
The population of certain parts of the city, like Dongri, Mazgaon, Girgaon, Byculla and Mahalaxmi, was increasing which necessiated new roads and the widening of the existing ones; the Girgaon Road, for example, was widened; and so were the roads in the Kamathipura area. Charni Road was extended to Falkland Road. Worli and Parel were linked by a road, named Fergusson Road. The Jacob Circle was laid; so was Sankhli Street. All these were macadamised roads. Tarred roads had not yet been heard of,
The first steam-roller appeared on the City roads in 1869.
The city had its first gas-light in 1833. The credit for it goes to Shri Ardeshir Cursetjee, who had installed a plant for producing coal-gas at his residence. The Governor of Bombay, we are told, once visited Shri Cursetjee’s place when it was lighted up with gas lamps.
It was in the same year that street lighting was proposed; but it was not before the proposal was discussed threadbare for ten years that Mumbai’s streets had lights for the first time (1843). These were kerosene lamps. The first gas lamps appeared on Mumbai’s roads in October 1865. Bhendi Bazar, Esplanade Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) and Churchgate Street were the roads chosen for the honour. It was quite an excitement for the Mumbaite. Crowds of people would follow the lamp-lighter; they would watch him do it with almost a sense of wonder. The idea of gas-lighting caught on so well that several well-to-do citizens donated large ornamental gas-lamps for being put up at some important spots in the city.
It was at about this time that some of the fine public buildings which give the city its imposing look came up, particularly in the Fort area. The road from Museum to Flora Fountain was lined on either side by what were for those days huge buildings. A dignified edifice was put up to house the Secretariat.
The small University area next to it distinguished itself architecturally with the Convocation Hall,
and the Rajabai Tower over-topping the Library. The solemn gothic pile of the High Court next to it held you with its stately dimensions.
These structures appeared around the year 1870. Soon the stretch between Flora Fountain and the Crawford Market had equally impressive buildings.
Mumbai was by then an attractive city, not merely a prosperous one.
The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company (G.I.P., for short) was established in 1849. Its first train, the first in the country, ran from Mumbai to Thane on 16th April 1853. In 1865, the railway went over the Borghat. By 1870 Calcutta and Madras had been linked with Mumbai by rail. The Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway was started in 1855.
Getting off to a start with the opening of a cotton mill in 1850, the textile industry soon made phenomenal progress.
THE CITY CONTINUES TO GROW
About 1670, the population of Mumbai was around ten thousand. It has been growing since then. When a regular census was taken in 1864, the figure was somewhere near eight lakhs. Now it seems to have crossed a crore ! With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1870, England was only fifteen days away from Mumbai, by sea. This had much to do with the growth of Mumbai.
It gave the Mumbai port an important place on the map of the world’s sea routes. Mumbai started prospering, and it has not looked back since.
MEANS OF CONVEYANCE
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the usual means of conveyance in the city had been what were called the shigram (horse-drawn), the rekla (bullock-drawn) and the palkhi (palanquin). Now the gharry, a horse-drawn vehicle, joined them. A modified version of it, called the ‘Victoria’, was put on the roads in 1882. There were some twenty-five or thirty stands for vehicles in the city - as at Colaba, Apollo bunder, the Municipal Offices, the Portuguese Church at Girgaum, and Lalbaug. The fares were modest : for a mile’s road, the horse-drawn vehicle charged one four annas (twenty-five paise, to us) and the ‘rekla’ three annas. Of course the wedding season or a dislocation caused by heavy rains was then, as now, something of a ‘heaven-sent’ opportunity for pitching their fares higher. Bullock carts carried all the heavier goods. There were no hand-carts yet. Tram-cars started plying towards the end of the nineteenth century. However, attempts seem to have been made earlier to provide some kind of a stage-transport system. An 1819 issue of the Bombay Courier carried an announcement by a certain firm, named ‘Architect and Coach-maker’. It said that if the scheme received adequate support the firm would start a horse-coach service from the Fort to Sion, stopping at suitable places. The residents of the Byculla-Parel area were particularly assured that such a service would be a great convenience to them.
The first motor car appeared on Mumbai roads in 1901. Today the city has over six lakhs vehicles, which include motor cars, buses, trucks, scooters, bicycles Mumbai’s roads are well nigh groaning under this wheeled traffic, but the very magnitude of the traffic is an index of the city’s stupendous growth. Another year that stands out in the history of the city is 1872 : the year of the establishment of the Municipal Corporation for the city. The citizens were given local self-government; the rate payers could elect their representatives on the body.
With the city growing at such a pace, a well-organised road transport system became a necessity. Soon the Bombay Tramway Company Ltd. was set up.
In 1865, an American Company applied to the government for a licence for running a horse-drawn tramway service in the city.
The licence was granted on certain conditions, but the project did not materialize just because a war ended rather abruptly.
It was the American Civil War. The boom in trade brought by the war was suddenly over, and there was a financial crash.
The city’s economic life was badly disrupted. A large number of firms went into liquidation. The disaster snuffed out the tramway project.
The Times of India of 27th November 1871 carried an announcement put out by the Bombay Omnibus Company. According to it, a bus service was proposed to be run between the Malbar Hill and Fort in the mornings and evenings for the convenience of the Europeans residing on the hill. The monthly season ticket was priced at thirty pounds. However, owing to unsatisfactory response, the scheme had to be dropped, as the Times of India of 8th December reported.
A few years had to elapse before a similar project was mooted. This time it went through rather smoothly, and the Bombay Tramway Company Limited was formally set up in 1873. The contract granted the Municipality the right to buy up the concern after the first twenty years, or after every period of seven years thereafter. After this contract was entered into between the Bombay Tramway Company and the Municipality, the Government of Bombay enacted the Bombay Tramways Act, 1874, under which the Company was licensed to run a tramway service in the city. The tram-cars were of two kinds : those drawn by one horse and those drawn by two. The Company started with a fleet of twenty cars and two hundred horses. When it closed down in 1905, it had as many as 1,360 horses.
The service first started on two routes : Colaba to Pydhoni via Crawford Market, and Bori Bunder to Pydhoni, via Kalbadevi. That was on 9th May, 1874. The fare from Colaba to Pydhoni was three annas. The conductor collected the fare; but issued no tickets. There was no way of checking if any passenger had a free ride, or if the conductor had collected precisely what he handed over to the Company, and no more.
This merry situation could not possibly go on for long. Within four or five months, the tickets were there. So was checking of tickets.
The fare was brought down to two annas; it dropped down to one anna in 1899.
In the early days of the horse-drawn tramway, the novelty of it provided quite a thrill. But that was not the only reaction. There were those, like the drivers of ‘shigrams’ and ‘reklas’, who were agitated as they saw in this new means of transport a threat to their occupation. Some of them would express their protest and displeasure by inserting dust and bits of stone in the grooves of the rails so that they should be clogged, and the wheels should go off the rails. Naughty boys would enjoy themselves thus obstructing the tram-cars. Once, as reported, a man playing the trick was caught redhanded by the Company’s officials, and they administered a sound thrashing to him on the spot without bothering about the formality of an inquiry. They say the passengers in the tram-car thus sought to be obstructed were quite pleased with what they said was a proper lesson.
However, partly because of such incidents and partly because it was an unfamiliar vehicle, the tram-car was not at first received with the enthusiasm shown for the railway. The Company had to make a special effort to persuade the public that this mode of transport was fast and smooth, and that it was cheap too. The persuasion included free rides in the first few days. On the third day (12th May, 1874), the Times of India expressed its doubts about the prospects of the tramway. It offered some suggestions too : The vehicle must move faster; the fares must be brought down; more interesting than either, passengers should be prohibited from resting their feet on the seats. Characteristically for the times, a section of the educated people was suspicious of the innovations imposed by the white foreigners, and to them the tram-car was one such innovation. Dadoba Pandurang Tarkhadkar, renowned grammarian voiced the sentiments of that section when he wrote : "Our people here are in distress for lack of employment, and yet these seven or eight years some wealthy fellows from Boston in far-away America have been carrying on this business of running for hire vehicles are dwinding in number, and these fellows, sitting in America, are regularly making hundreds of rupees, by putting the wool over our eyes. The people of Mumbai should have at least resolved not to travel by these tram-cars, just as the people of Calcutta and Madras did. Instead, they are helping bring greater poverty to the country".
This is an extract from Shishubodh. Some eighty years later, in 1964, a move was organised to ask people to desist from travelling by buses as a protest against a rise in fares. It too met with a poor response.
It was only to be expected that people should air their grievances and suggestions about the tramway service through the newspapers. An interesting letter of the kind appeared in the Times of India of 28th July 1903. It would seem that there was a regulation that only four passengers should occupy a bench, and not five as usual, if even one of them was a woman. A soldier was fined fifty rupees for breaking the regulation. Referring to this, the letter-writer complained that officials of the company were habitual offenders in this respect. He appealed to the administration to clarify the regulation. In this connection, one Mr.E.W. Fox suggested in the Times of India of 1st June 1905 that the city fathers should get the company to limit the seats to four per bench. Obviously Mr.Fox had a sense of humour, for he added : "Five persons to a bench means friction. If such friction were to generate static electricity who would be responsible for it? But why should the city-fathers worry about it? They go about in their private vehicles as if they are Lords of the Bombay Parliament".
The Municipality could have taken over the Company in 1894 - at the end of twenty-one years - as stipulated by the contract, but it waived the right. This gave the Company a further seven years’ - till 1901.
In 1899, the Company applied to the Municipality for permission to run its tram-cars on electricity. The application inter alia pleaded that considering the heavy expenditure the company would have to incur on the new project, the Municipality should waive its right of taking it over in 1901. But even before the application was disposed of, the Municipality decided to exercise its right to take over the Company. This gave rise to several legal complications, but finally in 1905, a newly formed concern, "The Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company limited" bought the Bombay Tramway Company. During its thirty-one year’s tenure, the old company had served the city well with its network of tramway routes. From Museum, one route went south-west to Sassoon Dock, another north-east to Wadi Bunder, yet others to the central part of Mumbai, to points like Lalbaug. Jacob Circle and Opera House. Two east-west routes ran from Carnac Bunder to Dhobi Talao, and from the J.J. Hospital to Grant Road. On the first day (9th May 1874) of its service the number of passengers carried was 451 and the takings amounted to Rs.85. On the last day (1st August 1905) the number of passengers was 71,947 and the takings amounted to Rs.4,260. These figures should give a fair idea of how the service had expanded during the years.
Before starting work on a new route the Tramway Company had to secure the approval of the Municipality and the permission of the Government. These were given after due consideration was accorded to the views and recommendations of all those concerned with the new route. The correspondence all this entailed, and unexpected difficulties, often confined the project of a new route to files for years together. By then sometimes the need for the route would become so urgent that the Municipality had to step in and pursue the project on its own. One such project was of the Girgaon Naka-Gowalia Tank route. It was first sent up by the Company to the Municipality in 1905 for approval, which came promptly. But the improvement Trust had just planned a road from Chowpatty to Gowalia Tank. The Government directed that work on the new tramway route should not begin till the road was laid. It was also necessary to strengthen the Frere Bridge over which the route was to pass. The correspondence started, and had kept swelling when the World War started. The War ended, but the project had not moved. It did not move for a few more years.
Finally the route came to be regarded as a ‘must’, and in 1922 it was the Municipality which started putting pressure on the Company to start work on it. Meanwhile, further difficulties cropped up. The estimate of the cost of the project had become out of date. Prices had soared, and the project was not financially viable any longer. At last, with some reluctance, the Company agreed to take up the project, and the track was laid by April 1924. But another two years had to elapse before the route was opened to traffic. This was because there was difference of opinion about the fare to be charged on the route. The route had its first tramcar on 11th February 1926.
Mumbaites gave a warm welcome to the electric tramcar. The service was formally inaugurated on 7th May, 1907 by Shri Vallabhdas Thakersey, the then Chairman of the Municipality. Among those who attended the function were Mr.Sheppard, the Municipal Commissioner, Mr. R.M. Philips, Deputy Police Commissioner, Sir Bhalchandra Krishna Bhatwadekar, the Collector of Customs, Sir Harikisondas Narottamdas, Shri Ibrahim Rahimtulla and Members of the Municipality, besides important officials of the Company like the Managing Director, Mr.Remington, and the Chief Engineer, Mr.Cooper.
At five-thirty that afternoon the first electric tram-car, specially decorated for the occasion, started from outside the Municipal Office, went as far as the Crawford Market, and returned to the point from where it had left. After this ceremonious, inaugural run, four tram-cars kept plying on the various routes till eleven in the night. People jostled one another to board them.
The service started regularly from the next day. It drew nothing but praise : praise for its speed, its comfort, and its low fares. But, unfortunately, there occurred a bad accident on the very first day. A passenger, named Shri Malvankar, fell off a running tram; one of his legs got under a wheel. The leg had to be amputated.
The accident was much talked about, and much written about too. Suggestions were sent in telling the Company how to prevent such accidents. One was that there should be something more effective than a chain on the ‘wrong’ side of the tram-car to stop intending passengers from getting in that way. Another was that there should be more stops than the six provided on the route from Colaba to Bori Bunder. And many more of the kind. But not all of the letters carried complaints and suggestions. There were bouquets too-plenty of them.
VARIATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS
The order for the first electric tram-car had been placed with the Brush Electrical Company of London. The vehicle arrived in Mumbai in January 1906. There used to be an Upper Class in the tram-cars; it was removed after some time. By 1910 the service was up against a problem no city transport service can hope to escape for long. The problem was of the rush-hour traffic.
The commuters being mostly office goers, the pressure used to be particularly unmanageable immediately before and after the office-hours.
There were not enough trams to cope with the rush. Trailers were attached to the trams, but they brought little relief.
So the Company approached the Municipality for permission to run a triple car. But the Police Commissioner objected to it; and the proposal fell through.
The pressure on the service kept on mounting.
The next proposal was to use space which would provide for standees. It was approved by the Municipality.
It worked till January 1914, when the approval was withdrawn.
The passing years aggravated the problem of rush-hour traffic. The solution next thought of was the double-decker tramcar.
It was accepted, and the first vehicles of the kind appeared on Mumbai’s roads in Spetember, 1920.
THE SCHEDULE OF FARES
Fixing the fares used to be a constant ground for disagreement between the Company and the Municipality. The latter would seek to keep the fares low, and the former would argue at length how such fares were uneconomical and plead for a raise. The Managing Director of the Company issued a statement in 1909 which gave the fare-structures for local transport services in Europe, America and Australia, and in Calcutta to prove that the tram-fares in Mumbai were the lowest. He made other points too : The salaries paid to the Company’s employees and the other expenses were higher than those for a transport organization in any other city in India. More comfort and conveniences were available to the commuters than under the previous tramway organization. The service was more frequent, and speedier too.
With all such pleas and petitions proving of no avail, the Company applied itself to increasing its efficiency without affecting its profits. Mr.James Dalrymple of the Glasgow Tramways Corporation was invited as an expert to recommend ways of effecting economy and other improvements in the administration of the Company, after a detailed scrutiny of its working Mr.Dalrymple’s recommendations were as follows :
The tramway service is excellent, except for its slowness. Between leaving the depot and returning to it, a tram-car moves, on the average, at only 4.8 miles per hour. It is only in the case of horse-drawn trams that so slow a speed can be defended. The present rate must be improved by at least one mile per hour. This will have to be done immediately. The people of Mumbai may not tolerate so sluggish a service for long. The Company should reckon with the fact that the local railway services are soon to be electrified.
There must be a proper time-table for the trams. When it is enforced, conductors and drivers will not have unduly long breaks, as at present, after the vehicle has reached the terminus.
There are more drivers and conductors in the company than needed.
Not enough care seems to be taken by the officials of the Company to the appearance of the vehicles. This is not proper. The vehicles must have a smart turnout, paint and all. Bright-coloured tramcars will draw pasengers, and swell the income.
The uniform worn by the running staff must be tidy. The starter must see to it that no one is allowed to be on duty if his uniform is slovenly.
The far : A flat rate of one anna for any journey is the lowest fare you have anywhere. The cost of laying a new track is very high. The income from the route may be too small for it. Therefore careful thought must be given to every proposal to start a new route. In this connection, the trolley and the motor bus are worthwhile alternatives for consideration.
This brief story of the early tramways in Mumbai will not be complete without a mention of some of their characteristic features.
From the beginning the city transport was modelled on that of London. Horse-drawn tram-cars had started running in London in 1870. Four years later Mumbai adopted that mode of transport. This was the first time Indian city had such an organization. Mumbai was the first again in the use of double-decker tramcars. Thus Bombay Tramways all along gave the lead in securing effcieincy and punctuality in the service, and in charging low fare.
Change is the law of life. It has been very much so in modern life. Every aspect of human activity has to keep pace with the times. Mumbai’s tramways were no exception. They kept growing and changing in response to the environment with new routes to serve localities that had grown, enlarged capacity to meet greater pressure of traffic, better designed vehicles, and reforms in administration. Then another World War was on us. The city’s population suddenly started soaring, as never before. And soon it all gathered at such a pace that the tramcar was out of step, and seemed out of date, and it faded out one night. That was the night of 31st March, 1964. Those modest, if rather noisy, vehicles, had devotedly carried Bombayman up and down the city for ninety years. The last of them, packed to capacity, left Bori Bunder for Dadar at ten that night. Crowds lined the route all the way at that late hour to bid farewell to the much loved, if old-fashioned, transport of the common man. It was a sad farewell.
One of Mr.Dalrymples’ recommendations, made in 1925, was that the trolley bus should be tried out on some routes. However, the idea had occurred to Mr.Remington as early as in 1913. But with the outbreak of World War I, it had to be shelved like many other bright ideas. It was taken down from the shelf in 1919, and a trolley bus service between the Dadar Tram Terminus and King’s Circle was planned as an experimental measure. But the plan ran into difficulties, with its financial aspects causing disagreement with the Municipality. And finally, it was given up.
Simultaneous consideration was given to the feasibility of a motor-bus service. The two main objections trotted out against such a service were : (1) The service would be expensive and (2) The accident rate will go up. Even in a city like London, with the orderly ways of its pedestrians and its vehicular traffic, the accident rate for buses is comparatively very high. It would be much higher in Mumbai.
It is not tied to the rails as the tram-car is.
The vehicles can be quickly moved to the points where they are urgently needed.
It can operate on relatively narrow roads.
The Great Debate started in 1913 : the trolley bus or the motor bus? And it went on cheerfully till 1926, with the Municipality, the B.E.S.T. Company,
the Commissioner of Police and the others concerned with the problem joining the fray. Finally, 10th February 1926, the Company plumped for the motor bus.
It was to run, as an experiment, on three routes. The routes were : Afghan Church to the Crawford Market, Dadar Tram Terminus to King’s Circle, via Parsi Colony,
and Opera House to Lalbag via Lamington Road and Arthur Road. The approval of the Commissioner of Police and the Municipality having been obtained, the service on
the first of these routes was scheduled to operate from 15th July 1926. The Times of India of 14th July carried the following announcement.
THE BOMBAY ELECTRIC SUPPLY AND TRAMWAYS CO. LTD.
MOTOR BUS SERVICE
On and from to-morrow, 15th instant, a regular 10 minutes service will be run from AFGHAN CHURCH to CRAWFORD MARKET via WODEHOUSE ROAD and HORNBY ROAD from 6.30 to 23.20
As scheduled, Mumbai saw its first bus run on 15th July 1926. It received a hearty welcome from the people, just as the electric tram had.
The Times of India of 16th July reported the inauguration of the bus service as under :
The Bombay Tramway Company’s new omnibus service commenced on Thursday, as already announced. A fleet of four buses plied from Middle Colaba to Crawford Market and back at an interval of about 10 minutes. The public took to the service favourably and, even allowing some margin for the initial rush due to the novelty of the thing, the public patronage appeared to be encouraging. The drive from Middle Colaba to Crawford Market occupied about 10 minutes and was generally comfortable.
An officer of the Company told a representative of the Times of India that the Company were closely watching the service with a view to making it perfectly agreeable to the public. Any of the slightest inconvenience felt by the public, he said, would be attended to by the authorities.
The buses will be disinfected everyday and kept neat and tidy. The quickness with which the distance is covered, the short intervals at which the buses are available and the regularity of the service, not to speak of the cheapness of the fares compared with a taxi or gharry, are factors which the public are likely to appreciate. Should there be adequate response and should the public demand warrant it, the Company are prepared to increase the number of buses. Two more are already in course of construction. The Company are also contemplating to run the service to the Parsi Colony at Dadar and it is expected the scheme will be materialised in a month’s time".
As was only to be expected, there were protests against the service by those whose interests were affected by it, just as many years earlier the introduction of the horse-drawn tram had provoked drivers of ‘reklas’ and horse-drawn vehicles into agitation. This time it was the ‘victoria-drivers and taxi-drivers’. But this agitation was mild and constitutional. The taxi-owners petitioned to the Commissioner of Police to give them protection against this fresh encroachment on their field of activity. They complained that the cheapness of the bus fare and the proximity of the bus stops to the taxi stands were depriving them of their income, and argued that the spread of the bus service to all the parts of the city would ruin the taxi trade, and also vest in the Tramway Company the practical monopoly of vehicular communication in the city.
The Police Commissioner rejected the taxi-owners’ representation firmly, if also persuasively. He stated that the competition of the bus service was absolutely legitimate, and that the police were under no obligation to help one class of public conveyance against another. He also pointed out that in all the big cities of the world taxi-cabs are in demand side by side with the buses, and that the class of people who ride in buses are different from those who use taxis. He added that if any kind of conveyance was going to suffer it was the Victoria.
The victoria-owners followed the taxi-owners in their attempt to have the bus service withdrawn. The Chairman of the Victoria-Owners’ Association sent up a petition to the Standing Committee of the Municipal Corporation in this regard. It expressed the fear that the bus would soon drive the victoria off the roads, as the latter had already been facing serious difficulties on account of the rise in prices.
This petition too was ineffectual. Bus service started on 15th July 1926. The Times of India of 20th July 1926 commented on the bus service in its ‘Current topics’ column. It pointed out that buses were a particularly convenient mode of transport during the rainy season. It would seem from the note that in the first few days the service was largely patronised by the ‘Sahibs’. The taxi was expensive, and one could not be sure of getting it when one needed it. The victoria, of course, was much too slow a vehicle. Moreover, it had no fixed schedule of fares. All this seemed to make the Times feel confident that the bus was soon going to be popular.
This confidence of the Times was certainly not misplaced. The bus service did better and better, and within a year it started expanding. From January 1927, the Company started hiring out buses for private use.
Like the tram, the Mumbai bus established several ‘firsts’. For the first time in the country, the city had a bus running on diesel oil, a double decker bus and an eight-foot wide bus.
In the early days the bus fare used to be from two annas to six annas. There were no half fares for children till 1928. For some time return tickets used to be issued.
Another interesting feature : Between 1928 and 1930 each bus carried a letter-box for the convenience of the passengers, and the postal service as well.
PEOPLE TAKE TO THE BUS
The people of Mumbai received the bus with enthusiasim, but it took quite some time before this means of conveyance really established itself.
For several years, it was looked upon as transport for the upper middle class. Those were the days when the tram was the poor man’s transport.
It carried you all the way from Sassoon Dock to Dadar for a mere anna and a half.
The bus fare for the same journey was four annas. The organisation had to struggle to make the ends meet by drawing more and more passengers.
However, they did come in growing numbers and the company kept expanding its service with confidence. In its first year - that is, by 31st December 1926 - about
six lakhs passengers used the service; for 1927, the figure was about 38 lakhs. The Company started its operations with 24 buses. In 1927, the fleet had expanded to 49.
The next few years were uneasy years, with strikes (1928), communal riots (1929) and, most important of all, the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-32).
Inevitably, these events affected the transport system. 1930 was a particularly difficult year. The number of passengers carried by the service dropped rather suddenly,
what with the strikes, the frequent ‘hartals’ and the trade depression. The Company had to be on its toes to meet all these difficulties.
It also kept up its efforts to provide a faster and more comfortable service. In March 1930 concessional rates were introduced on short journeys.
This worked immediately, sending up the number of passengers. It also enabled the company to fit in more trips per vehicle.
Even then the income kept lagging behind the expenditure. But the company bravely kept the service going, for with its sense of commitment to the citizens it had always looked beyond the balance sheet.
And it soon turned the corner. More and more passengers were attracted to the bus service.
In those days of economic depression a large number of car-owners found that this public transport suited their pockets better.
In response to the pleas made by the Government and the Municipal Corporation, the Company extended its service to the northern part of the city in 1934. The first routes to be added were : (1) Byculla Bridge to King’s Circle, via Dadar and the Parsi Colony. (2) Lalbaug to Worli via Curry Road and Fergusson Road (3) Dadar to Mahim. Whatever doubts the Company had about public patronage were now set at rest. The number of passengers carried by the buses kept steadily increasing, and so did the income. The total expenditure, which had not increased at the same rate, was distributed over more vehicles. The Company was soon in a position to reduce the fares, particularly for the longer journeys. The bus routes were reorganised with a view to meeting the needs of the travelling public. An interesting experiment was the issue of a Whole Day Ticket during the Christmas Holidays. The ticket entitled one to travel anywhere in the city on the day - and that for just twelve annas. Started in 1935, this scheme achieved great popularity. It was withdrawn when the Second World War broke out.
Double-decker buses were introduced in 1937 in order to cope better with the growing traffic. The single-deck vehicle carried 36 passengers, the double-decker could take as many as 58. This, and its sheer size and look made the double-decker popular as soon as it was put on the roads.
The Second World War started in 1939. It had a sharp and immediate impact on the life in a city like Mumbai. There were the inevitable shortages. Road transport was hit by the shortage of tyres and the rationing of petrol. Owners of motor-cars found it rough going, and many of them switched over to the bus service. This created a problem for the service : too many passengers and too few buses. It was almost impossible to procure more vehicles. And the cost of running the buses, and maintaining them, kept on mounting. The Company however faced this situation resolutely.
Ways had to be devised to minimise the inconvenience caused to the passengers, and they were. The structure of the single-deck bus, for example, was so modified as to provide seats on top of it - without a roof, above them, of course. This enlarged the capacity of the bus to sixty, but the unlucky ones riding on the top were exposed to sun and rain. The sun they could brave, but not the rain. Why not put up a temporary roof, suggested the Regional Transport Authority. But the Engineering Department of the Company was sceptical : Could the chassis take all the additional weight? This should give some idea of the woeful insufficiency of buses in relation to the volume of traffic. The Company then came out with a novel proposal. The office in the city, it suggested, should stagger their working hours so that the pressure on the service during rush hours would be distributed a little more evenly. The pressure had, by pre-war standards, become almost alarming. Intending passengers would storm a bus when it had hardly pulled up at a stop. There would be sharp exchanges between conductors and passengers, and they did not always remain purely verbal. As a result the buses were often held. up. The overcrowding put a strain on the vehicles, and they were soon in a sorry state. Something had to be done about it, and that too quite soon. The Motor Vehicles Act had no provision for imposing a limit on the number of passengers a bus might carry. The very necessity for the provision brought it into existence before long. Accordingly no more than six standees were allowed on the lower deck. Those breaking the regulation were liable to prosecution. The regulation, a creation of the war years, became a permanent feature.
LIMITED BUS SERVICE
The first Limited Bus Service in Mumbai, and probably the first in the country as well, started running in February 1940, between Colaba and Mahim. It was specially designed to provide quick transport for those living at or near the northern end of the city. In its early days the service was restricted to the office-goers rush-hours in the mornings and evenings to discourage short-distance passengers from using the service,
a minimum fare of two annas was charged. Such was the response to the Limited Buses, however, that soon their confinement to the rush hours was lifted, and they started running the whole day.
A trolley bus service for the city was thought up for the first time by Mr. Remington in 1913. Once again, in 1937 one Shri S.R. Prasanna proposed to the Mayor that the trams and motor-buses should be replaced by trolley buses. The Mayor forwarded the proposal to the B.E.S.T. Company for its opinion.
Scrapping of all the trams and motor-buses and acquiring a
whole fleet of trolley-buses to take their place would have landed the Company in very heavy expenditure.
Apart from it, it would have been impossible for a trolley-bus service to cope with the heavy traffic in a city like Mumbai.
There was also a practical difficulty : Unlike a tram car, a trolley bus cannot change its direction without actually turning round.
A trolley bus service would have been financially feasible only when new rails had to be laid to replace the worn-out ones on all the routes.
But with the efficient way in which the tram tracks were maintained, this was not likely to happen in the near future.
As for their capacity, three trolley buses would have been required to carry the load of two tram cars.
The much appreciated convenience of ‘Transfer Tickets’ would have to be withdrawn.
The fares would have to be increased A trolley-bus is more prone to
breakdowns than is a tram car, as its electrical mechanism is more complicated than that of a tram car.
If a road was under repairs the trolley bus service using it would have to be suspended.
These and other objections of the kind were raised by the Company.
They worked, and the trolley bus project once again came to nothing.
And it all confirmed that the motor bus had come to stay and would stay for a long, long time in Mumbai.
The B.E.S.T. Company launched its motor-bus service on 15th July 1926 with a modest fleet of twenty-four vehicles. On 7th August 1947, the Municipal Corporation took over the Company. During the twenty-one years in between, the fleet had swollen to 242 vehicles.
Mumbai saw electric lighting for the first time in 1882. The place was the Crawford Market.
The following year the Municipality entered into an agreement with the Eastern Electric Light and Power Company. Under the agreement,
the Company was to provide electric lighting in the Crawford Market and on some of the roads.
But the Company went into liquidation the following year, and the Market reverted to gas lighting.
Thus ended the first scheme to provide electric lighting in the city.
Another scheme was taken up for consideration in 1891; and in 1894 the Municipality sanctioned funds for installing a plant to generate electricity.
The current was to be supplied to the Municipal offices and Crawford Market.
It was, and the two places were fitted up with electric lights. But by 1906, with the wear and tear of all those years, the machinery at the plant was in a bad way.
The current would stop off and on. So, once again, Crawford Market went back to gas lighting.
The Municipal offices, however, arranged to get the electricity it needed from the newly established "Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company".
This Company was originally established in England, as a subsidiary of the British Electric Traction Company, which had been trying since 1903 to bring electricity to Mumbai. The Brush Electrical Engineering Company was its agent. It applied to the Municipality and the Government of Bombay in 1904 for a license to supply electricity to the city. With the municipality approving the Company’s schedule of rates, the Government issued the necessary license : "The Bombay Electric License, 1905. When the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company came into being, it entered into a contract with the original licensee to take over the right of supplying electricity to the city.
The Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company (B.E.S.T.) set up a generating station at Wadi Bunder in November 1905 to provide power for the tramway. The capacity of the station was 4,300 kws. The needs of the city and of the tramway in respect of electric power were bound to grow. At a rough estimate the full capacity of the Wadi Bunder plant was not going to be adequate beyond 1908. The plant could not be expanded much either. So it was decided to set up another generating station, one with a higher capacity, near Mazgaon (Kussara). It started functioning in 1912. The pace at which the demand for electricity grew can be gauged from the fact that within three years the Wadi Bunder Station proved to be inadequate. The tram service had been expanding, and more and more power was needed for the industrial and commercial establishments, as well as for domestic purposes.
Within a year since the B.E.S.T. Company started generating electricity, the Government proposed to issue a license to another concern for the supply of electric power to the city. It was the Tata Company. Its capital and resources were such that the B.E.S.T. Company could hardly stand up against it, as a competitor. The B.E.S.T. Company had cause to worry as to what was going to happen to what it had set up, and its shareholders. Its interests were going to be very badly affected if the Tatas were given a license. It therefore asked for the appointment of a Local Inquiry Committee, under the Electricity Act of 1903, to which it would submit its objections in detail. The Chairman of the Municipality too expressed himself against the proposal to grant a license to the Tatas. There were informal discussions between the representatives of the Tatas and Mr.Remington, Managing Director of the B.E.S.T. Company, with a view to finding out if the differences regarding the proposed license could be settled. A settlement was finally arrived at. Under it, only those whose requirement of electric power was above 5,00,000 units were to be served by the Tatas. This agreement was to be effective for a period of ten years, to begin with. The Tatas were given a license, and they started generating electricity in 1911. The B.E.S.T. Company itself drew on the Tatas when its own production was inadequate. The generating station at Kussara was, of course, functioning. In 1918, owing to insufficient rainfall, there was not enough water in the dam which fed the Tata Plant. The B.E.S.T. Company had to come to the help of the Tatas to maintain their power supply.
Though the B.E.S.T. Company had to take some of the electric power it needed from the Tatas, it was trying to be self sufficient in this respect. But with the outbreak of the First World War, the whole situation changed. The price of coal shot up and the generation of electricity became an unprofitable business. This led the Company to close down its Kussara Station, and it began to get all the power it needed from the Tatas.
The agreement, under which this was done, was made in 1923. It was to be in operation for a period of fifteen years, initially. It could then be extended by a five years’ notice for further ten years. After that an annual renewal of the agreement was provided for. The supply of power under the agreement actually started in January 1925. When the first renewal was due there arose sharp differences of opinion between the Tatas and the B.E.S.T. Company. The most important of these related to those customers who needed more than five lakh units. The Company maintained that the condition in respect of such customers applied only to factories. Whether those whose needs of power increased to more than five lakh units in course of time were customers of the Tatas or the Company was a disputed point. About the same time, the Bombay Port Trust invited tenders for the supply of power. This set off a fierce competition between the Tatas and the Company for the contract. The Tatas quoted a lower rate than they were charging the Company, and the Company quoted almost the same rate. But the rate could have only meant a loss. And the Tatas would have run into legal trouble too, for the Port Trust was not ‘factory’ as required by the old agreement. Moreover, the rate quoted by the Tatas was unfair to the Company. Both the sides now recognised the need for a compromise, and the dispute was settled by leaving to the Company all the customers, except factories, who required more than five lakh units.
Even the Port Trust, which indirectly served as the cause of the compromise had to secure a ‘distributing license’ from the Government to avoid possible legal complications
1905 to 1911 formed the first stage of the use of electricity in Mumbai. It was not so easily available then. And, of course, the common man could not just afford it. An electric bulb cost two rupees. To have electric lights in your home was status symbol. The luxury was within the means of only the affluent, and most of even those were not mentally prepared to bring this strange thing into their homes.
The second stage was from 1911 to 1920. It made the people of Mumbai fairly familiar with electricity. Electric lighting, everybody agreed, was a good thing, but the importance of electric power to industries was yet to be accepted. The textile mills and other industries still continued to use steam and oil engines for the power they needed. Once electric motors of high power were available, the resistance of these industrialists to recognise electricity as a blessing and a convenience weakened. The Company appointed load canvassers to visit homes and factories for this purpose. The impact of their persuasion was particularly registered by the domestic consumption, which went up considerably. Electrical appliances used in the kitchen and elsewhere drew more and more people to them.
The next phase - 1930 to 1947 - saw tremendous progress in the supply of electricity. A variety of electrical appliances were to be had in plenty. The common man realised what a great help electricity was, and yet, how cheap. The efforts of the B.E.S.T. had achieved their objective. An important development was the setting up of a show-room.
A show-room was set up in 1926 on the ground floor of Electric House, to give advice to customers on the use of domestic electrical appliances and of electric power, in general. The service was free of charge; but it was aimed at promoting the use of electricity. This service was modelled on similar lines as in England.
A good deal of useful work was achieved by the showroom, apart from instructing people in the use of gadgets. For example, it designed a special kind of electric iron for dhobis, and the tribe of dhobis took to it enthusiastically. Similarly, the showroom fabricated for individual consumers such apparatus as air blowers, sizing tanks and drying cabinets, according to specifications suited to their particular needs. These were not easily available in the market, as the demand for them was limited. With the import restrictions brought by the Second World War, such apparatus were even more sought after, and therefore the service offered by the show-room was even more appreciated.
The Lighting Bureau of the Showroom used to give special advice with regard to the lighting arrangements in offices and factories. The experts on the staff of the showroom would visit the place to see things for themselves before giving their advice. The showroom also started renting out electrical appliances. Refrigerators, which were included in the scheme, became so popular, right from the beginning, that the demand for them could hardly be met. Soon after the inauguration of the showroom. The Times of India of 14th July, 1926 carried a letter about the new service from a reader who signed himself ‘Electric’.
The letter said :
ELECTRIFYING THE HOME
The Editor of The Times of India,
The Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company deserve to be congratulated on their organisation and speedy inauguration of an up-to-date motor bus service for the City of Bombay. Close upon this comes the news of the arrangements that are being made by the same concern to convert, "the poor men’s cottages into prince’s palaces". The report that the company is shortly opening a "showroom" at their Head Office at Colaba for the demonstration of domestic electrical appliances fit for Indian conditions will be received with great joy by all who, though poor, yet possess sufficient "sanitary conscience" to wish to do away once for all with the foul odour of coal and charcoal gas. The millennium does not seem to be far away when one reads that even at "Hackney, one of the most unattractive and depressing parts in London, the local authorities, by assiduous service, have so developed the use of electricity for cooking and heating in these small homes that it is becoming the universal agent, and the supply system contributes between thirty and forty thousand pounds a year to the relief of the rates". But how far the citizens of Bombay will avail themselves of the facilities offered greatly depends upon the efforts the organisers make to spread the "electrical idea" into the home of every family as well as upon the economic efficiency of the "new order of things".
It was in July 1921 that the Municipality proposed for the first time that the B.E.S.T. Company should undertake to provide street lighting. A scheme was drawn up for installing electric lamps at 47 street junctions. On 1st August 1923 the first lot of 36 lamps was on. They had tungsten filaments. Sodium vapour lamps were tried out on the Horn by Vellard (now called Dr.Annie Besant Road) in 1938
The Indian Electricity Act of 1903 was repealed in 1910, and the new Act took its place. In 1922 the Indian Electricity Rules came into force. The State secured greater control on electric power. The generation of electricity came to be ranked among the major industries. One of the Rules required every concern producing electricity to supply it to whatsoever applied for it.
For lighting : eight annas per unit upto a specific limit (maximum demand). Three annas per unit for consumption in excess of it.
For Power for Industries : eight annas per unit upto a specific limit (maximum demand). An anna and a half per unit for consumption in excess of it.
The tariff was approved. However, the Company’s method of fixing the specific limit was quite complicated.
Somehow the pace of growth of consumption fell short of expectations. So an expert was invited to examine the tariff.
Following his recommendations the rates were reduced in 1907.
For lighting, the basic rate was kept at eight annas, but the subsequent rate was reduced from three annas per unit to two annas; and
for industrial power the rate was slashed down to a uniform two annas per unit.
But the Company’s billing procedure continued to be complicated. And the consumers too continued to complain. Finally, in 1908, the Tramways Committee of the Municipality, which had Sri Pherozeshah Mehta as its Chairman, invited Mr.Remington, Managing Director of the B.E.S.T. Company, for a discussion of the matter. Apart from the billing the rate schedule was unfair to those consumers who did not have to keep their lights on late into the night. For them, electric lights cost one and a half times as much as gas lights. The tramway Company therefore wanted the specific limit to go and a uniform rate to be introduced. There were further discussions, and proposals and counter-proposals were bandied, for a good two years till a new tariff emerged. It was as under :
Four and a half annas per unit for lighting, fans and small appliances, per every 250 units consumed in a month, one per cent discount in the bill, 35 per cent being the maximum discount so allowed.
3 annas per unit for hospitals.
2 annas per unit for industries.
This schedule was based on the assumption that the payment for the bills would be made at the Head Office of the Company on the Colaba Causeway and that it would be punctual.
It was therefore specially stated in the schedule that those consumers who failed to pay their bills promptly would have to pay a deposit.
This schedule was introduced as an experimental measure for two years. It was then confirmed by the Tramways Committee after careful deliberations.
An interesting suggestion was made by the Greaves Cotton Company in 1912. It was regarding the use of electricity to supply heat. If concession rates were offered, the Company pointed out, dhobis would readily use electricity for ironing clothes, and so too would many industrialists. The prospect persuaded the B.E.S.T. Company to lower the rate to one anna per unit for such consumers. This was in 1913.
About the same time Mumbai had its first cinema houses, Four of them - the Alexandra, the Coronation, the Edward and the Gaiety - used to get their electric supply from the B.E.S.T. Company. It first struck the management of the Edward that putting up their own generating plant would mean a cheaper current. It promptly said that it would discontinue the use of its electric power unless a concession in the rate was granted. The Company, realizing what the loss of such customers would mean, promptly reconsidered the matter, and brought down the rate to three annas a unit. Electric illuminations at weddings were coming into vogue; they also were put in a special category for concessional rates. In 1915, the rate for cinema houses was further brought down from three annas to two annas per unit.
Then there was the shortage of electric meters in 1917. It meant that no new connections could be given. Undeterred, the Company announced that it would charge a rupee per point. If your flat had four points, you would have to pay four rupees to the Company every month, no matter how much current you consumed. The rate had been fixed on the basis of the average of all the bills for six months. This exposed the Company to the possibility of a loss, but it preferred some loss of revenue to the loss of consumers, the only alternative in the situation.
Soon the cost of generating electricity started going up, and in 1922 the B.E.S.T. Company approached the Municipality for permission to levy a 15 per cent surcharge on its bills for the supply of electricity. The Tramways Committee of the Municipality refused to oblige. In 1930, the Municipality asked the B.E.S.T. Company to lower its rates on the ground that an essential item like electricity should be available to the people at a cheap rate. The Calcutta Electricity Company was cited as an example in this respect.
The Company’s stand in this respect was explained by its General Manager in his letter to the Municipality in 1930. The points he made were :
The rates in force had been fixed in 1910, and there had been no increase in them since. In Bombay, electricity was the one item of which the price had not gone up for years together.
The Company got its electricity from the Tatas at so much per unit and it supplied it to its consumers as so much per unit. It was naively thought that the difference between the two rates was the Company’s profit per unit. It was not all that simple. The voltage of the power received from the Tatas had to be reduced, and this operation cost the Company quite a bit. Then there was the leakage on the lines carrying the current to the consumers. Such wastage ordinarily amounts to 15 per cent. That is, for every 100 units drawn from the Tatas, only 85 actually reached the consumers.
There was yet another point. What profit the company made on the supply of electricity helped it run its tramway service, which charged a flat rate of one anna,
the lowest for any transport service in the world, as had been pointed out by Mr.Dalrymple.
The bus service too was a liability, but it was being run to supply a real civic need. The attention of the Municipality was drawn to this fact.
Meanwhile, an expert was invited from England to examine the Company’s schedule of rates. He arrived in Mumbai in December 1929. His conclusion was that the rates were generally fair. Some modifications were made in the schedule on the lines suggested by him. Those were the days of a trade depression, and the Company showed its awareness of it by cutting down its rates wherever it could.
The State Government appointed a committee in 1938 to study the Company’s tariff and advise the Government on what the maximum rates should be for the various categories of consumers. The Government accepted the committee’s recommendations and asked the Company to give effect to them from 1st April, 1939. The revised rate were : 2 annas per unit for lighting and fans, three quarters of an anna per unit for electrical appliances; and four annas per month as the meter rent. There was a similar reduction in the rates for the other categories.
However, the Government gave an undertaking to the Company that it would not ask for further reduction for five years, and that the Company would be exempted from the Sales Tax during this period.
Any organisation supplying electricity tries to encourage its use by offering attractive rates. So did the B.E.S.T. Company. But it had to abide by its agreement with the Municipality which stipulated that such reduction in rates should apply to all the types of consumers.
The Company’s agreement with the Tatas regarding the supply of electric power was renewed in 1938. Now the power cost less to the Company, which in its turn passed the advantage to the consumers. For example, till 1934 the rate for lights was four annas per unit. By 1938 it had come down to 3 annas upto 14 units, and two and a half annas thereafter. There was a similar lowering of the rates for the other types of consumption.
Electricity was generated for the first time in Mumbai in 1905. During the next forty years its consumption went up from 1,50,000 kilowatts to 60,00,000 kilowatts. Used for a variety of purposes, both domestic and industrial - and that at a low rate - electric power assumed an important place in the life of the people. This underlined the necessity for some kind of a state control on its use, in the interest of the consumer, as well as of the producer.
TAX ON ELECTRICITY
The Government imposed a tax on electricity for the first time in 1932. The tax was imposed to help the State tide over the financial difficulties created by the trade depression, as the official explanation went. However, like several other taxes, the tax on electricity settled down to become a regular feature. The Municipality, as well as many other public bodies, protested strongly against the new imposition, but it was of no avail. With the tax added, electricity bills went up by more than fifty per cent and, as an inevitable result of it, the growth in the consumption of electricity slowed down. In 1936, and again in 1940, representations were made to the Government for repeal of the tax. Actually, the half annas impost of 1932 moved upto three quarters of an anna in 1938, and to an anna and a quarter in 1939! The latter jump was designed to cover the expenditure on prohibition.
This is the story of the early days of electricity in Mumbai - of its arrival and the expansion of its use. In modern life electricity is next only to air, water, food and shelter as a necessity. Electricity is certainly a blessing, but it can very nearly be a curse if man depends too heavily on it. All that he can do is to take every precaution against the blessing turning into a curse.
It has been stated in the last chapter that the B.E.S.T. Company Limited purchased from the Bombay Tramways Company the right to run the road transport services in the city.
However, it was not a direct transaction between the Bombay Tramways Company and the B.E.S.T. Company. On behalf of A, B bought some rights from C, and the rights finally came to D - D,
in this case, being the B.E.S.T. Company quite a circuitous operation, wasn’t it?
On 12th March 1901, the Municipality informed the Tramways Company that it was taking over the transport system under the agreement concluded between the Company and the Municipality on 12th March 1873. Simultaneously, by a contract, the civic body gave the Brush Electrical Company of London the sole right to run an electric tram service in the city as well as to supply electricity. The Tramways Company then filed a suit, its plea being that the Municipality had not given it a proper notice as required by the agreement between them. But the plea failed, although the matter went up in appeal to the Privy Council. Meanwhile, on 27th June, 1905, the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company was established in London under the English Companies Act, and on 22nd July 1905, it was registered in Mumbai under the Indian Companies Act of 1882. The Bombay Tramways Company, the Bombay Municipality, the Brush Electrical Company and the B.E.S.T. Company signed an Agreement on 31st July 1905 by which the B.E.S.T. Company was granted the monopoly for electric supply and the running of an electric tram service in the city. The B.E.S.T. Company bought the assets of the Tramway Company for Rs.98,50,000. They included horse-drawn tram cars and horses, bullock-carts and bullocks, immovable property, tramway lines and goodwill. The deed of sale was executed in London on 1st August 1905, and the very next day the B.E.S.T. Company started functioning in Mumbai.
All the existing tramway routes will be taken over by the Company.
The Company will have the right to start new routes, with the prior approval of the Municipality and the permission of the government.
If the Municipality desires that a new route should be started, and the Company is not prepared to lay the track, the Municipality will get it laid at its own expense, and it will be handed over to the Company for operation on mutually agreed conditions.
The tram fare between any two points on the system will be one anna.
The maximum charges for lighting will be six annas per unit.
The Company will be required to provide transport for the Municipality, if necessary. The rates for it will be special. They will cover the cost of the electric energy consumed, the wear of the machinery, and the incidental expenditure on the transport, and no more, Transporting night soil will not however be included in this agreement.
For the existing routes the ground rent will be rupees three thousand per mile for a double track, and rupees two thousand per mile for a single track. When new routes are started, the rent will be fifty per cent less.
The Municipality will have the right to purchase the Company 42, 56 or 63 years after the date of the agreement. Notice of intention to purchase will have to be given at least six months in advance. If there is no mutual agreement on the price to be paid, the matter will be left to the decision of an arbitrator. If the Municipality exercises the right of purchase after 42 years, it will pay, as compensation to the Company, rupees forty lakhs, over and above the price; after 56 years the compensation will be twenty lakhs, and after 63 years nil.
THE B.E.S.T. BECOMES MUMBAI-BASED
The B.E.S.T. Company had been established in England under the Companies Act of that country. Its registered office was in London and its Board of Management met there. As a result, the Company had to pay income-tax to the British Exchequer on the profits it earned in India, and as it was registered in Mumbai it had to pay a similar tax in this country too. This double taxation hit the shareholders in India rather badly. The Directors of the Company in London, drawing the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this in 1909, pointed out the likelihood of the Indian shareholders insisting on shifting the Head Office of the Company to Mumbai. Nothing came of it. And, later the Indian shareholders did insist on the winding up of the B.E.S.T. Company in London. The First world War started about the same time. The rates of the British income tax went up sharply, as did those of the other taxes. This made the double taxation even more unbearable to the Indian shareholders. The Company’s Directors made another fervent plea to the Chancellor of the Exchequer stating that there would soon be no alternative to closing down its London Office. They further argued that the Company made all its purchases in England, thus contributing handsomely to the country’s Treasury. Nothing came of this plea too.
And the London Directors? apprehensions proved to be right! The Indian shareholders met, with Sir David Sassoon in the Chair, and passed a resolution to the effect that the Board of Directors in London should be abolished and the affairs of the Company should in no way be managed from London.
The direction, control and management of the company’s affairs will vest in the Mumbai Office, from 1st April 1916, and meetings of every kind of the General Body, the Board of Directors and the shareholders of the Company will be held in Mumbai.
From 1st April 1916 the Board of Directors of the Company will be constituted by Sir David Sassoon, Sir Shapurji Bharucha, Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola and Mr.G.S. Wardlaw. A Local Board will be set up in London to look after the Company’s legal affairs there.
REORGANIZATION OF THE B.E.S.T. COMPANY
As a result of handling the entire management of the Company from Mumbai the Board of Directors planned to convert the Company’s capital in pound sterling into its corresponding/value in rupees; but, under the Company Law, the only way of achieving it was by winding up the old Company in London and establishing a new one in Mumbai. As the B.E.S.T. Company was registered under the English Companies Act, the law required that the shareholders meet in London in order to wind it up. Thus they met in London on 9th June 1920, and passed a resolution to wind up its affairs. The shareholders in Mumbai met on 30th June 1920, and approved the resolution passed at the London meeting.
The newly established B.E.S.T. Company had a total capital of Rs.3 crore and 90 lakhs, divided into 6 lakh ordinary shares of 50 rupees each, and 1 lakh 80 thousand preference shares of the same value.
The new Company got the formal approval of the Municipality. During the next twenty-seven years it underwent no fundamental changes. It is just a story of expansion. The city kept growing, and the Company’s activities kept pace with it, as was inevitable. The growth of the Company in fact provided a fairly accurate measure of the growth of the city, so closely linked they used to be. So they are even today.
It was an all-round expansion. There were more and more people working in the Company’s head-office, and the need for a spacious enough building for them became more and more pressing. So the Company purchased a plot of land situated on the Ormiston Road, and next to the Electric House, for one lakh and forty-four-thousand rupees from the Municipality to whom it belonged. Soon a modern structure started coming up on the plot.
This office building had Messrs. F. Mekint as the architects and Gannon Dunkeley & Co. as the contractors. The building work was supervised by Shri G.G. Lazaras and Shri K.M. Khareghat, the Company’s engineers.
The new building, named BEST House, was very modern in more than its facade. It was so in a variety of items from the doors and windows to the minor fixtures, not to speak, of course, of the furniture. On the first floor was a spacious auditorium equipped for the screening of films. An upto date device was an electric indicator on the ground floor which repeated, from the name plates outside the chambers of the officers, the ‘engaged’ or ‘out’sign. Near the indicator was the inquiry clerk’s counter. Another special feature was that the entire office building was air-conditioned. it was the first office building in Mumbai with this convenience, and served as a model to many in the years that followed.
The building was ready for occupation in 1936. Into it moved all the departments accommodated in the Electric House till then. Such departments as Consumers’ Services, Cash, Shares, Provident Fund, Audit and Accounts, which had to deal with the public, were housed on the ground floor, and the office of the General Manager on the first floor. The Traffic Department was housed in Electric House. When the BEST House was inaugurated, it received warm praises from the newspapers and leading city architects as a handsome structure.
It was an American who first thought of setting up such a concern in Mumbai to provide electricity and transport. Messrs Sternes Hobart, an American Company, first applied for permission to set it up. That was in 1865. The permission was granted. But it proved to be unavailing, because the economic life of the city was badly upset following the end of the American Civil War. The application was renewed in 1872, but there were two more applicants this time : Messrs. Lawrence and Company, and the British and Foreign Tramway Company.
By 1905, the British seem to have become more alert and enterprising, for in that year a British concern bagged the twin monopoly of supplying electricity and transport to the city. Oddly enough, Mr.Remington, the Managing Director of the Bombay Tramways Company, the American concern, was British and he became the Managing Director of the B.E.S.T. Company.
The B.E.S.T. Company won repute as a model organisation. It served the city well, by efficiently supplying two very real needs of its people. But ‘service’ was no more than a means to it, the end being making profit. And profits were made using every legitimate way! Legally an Indian concern, the B.E.S.T. Company somehow always bore a British impress!. The ‘Sahib’ cast a long shadow on it, - this was understandable, considering those days. All the equipment the Company needed used to be imported from England; so were the technical experts! Even when, after the reorganization, the London Office was closed down, Mr. A.T. Cooper was appointed Agent to the Company in London, in 1924, to make purchases on its behalf. Mr.Cooper had been earlier Managing Engineer of the B.E.S.T. Company. On retirement he went to London, where the Agent’s job seemed to be the very thing for him! There was another assignment for him too as consulting Engineer to the Company! The emoluments were generous; and, of course, there were the other benefits like gratuity and provident fund. Finally on 1st January 1945, Mr.Cooper retired from these posts. But by then, the times had changed. A new era was round the corner. May be because of this, or perhaps because it was more convenient, the London agency of the Company was entrusted to the London Office of an Indian concern, the Tata Company.
The Company had "Sahibs’ raj" till 7th August 1947, and that not merely in its administration. Even the social and festive occasions showed it. The New Year was ushered in with a ball dance in a big way, and a large number of Indian officers joined it, several of them with dutiful zest! Nowadays the Dassera is celebrated in the Head Office with lovely rangoli patterns decorating the floor. Times have changed indeed! One ‘Peel Sahib’ was the lord in the Kingsway Depot area. The Officers’ Quarters now house twelve or thirteen families. In those days, just three officers used to occupy all the space between themselves, each one being allotted about three thousand square feet of area! Even their poultry enjoyed spacious accommodation, right next to the masters’ flats. To enable Peel Sahib to reach the Workshop directly from his residence, a special staircase was put up.
This is not intended to cavil at it all, but to bring you the flavour of those spacious times. We must not forget that these ‘Sahibs’ did not just enjoy the good things of life, they also put in hard work. And in work, they laid down valuable traditions, and they gave the organization a strong foundation.
In course of time, the Board of Directors of the Company had a majority of Indians on it. But they did not meddle with the structure of the Company or with its norms of working.
It would seem that, on the whole, the ‘Sahibs’ had little faith in the efficiency of the ‘natives’. A glance at a list of the Company’s employees in those days will make it clear that a ‘native’ occupying a responsible position was an exception. In the workshops, even such relatively lower posts as foreman or assistant foreman were virtually reserved for whites. In fact, outside the administrative section, all the important posts were occupied by ‘Sahibs’.
The B.E.S.T. Company came into existence on 7th August 1905; it was dissolved on 6th August 1947, to make room for the B.E.S.T. Undertaking. Once before there had been a similar taking over when the Bombay Tramways Company ceased to exist. But this take-over was not quite ‘similar’. Now the ownership of the concern came to the Municipal Corporation. This was a week before the country became free. it was therefore a significant event in several ways. The B.E.S.T. Undertaking was the first ‘public’ enterprise in the country. To run it successfully was a national duty.
One of the terms of the Agreement of 7th August, 1905 between the Municipality and the B.E.S.&T.
Company gave the Municipality the right to buy the Company at the end of forty-two years.
It was also laid down that if the right was exercised on 7th August 1947 - the Municipality would have to pay forty lakh rupees as goodwill, in addition to the agreed price of the Company’s assets;
and that the notice of intention to make the purchase would have to be given by the Municipality at least six months in advance.
However, the Municipal Corporation started considering the matter as early as 1941. On 11th December of the year the Municipal Commissioner expressed himself against it in the report he submitted to the Corporation. The report doubted the feasibility of raising a loan to buy the B.E.S.T. Company in view of the serious financial situation in which the Corporation was, with several of its important schemes regarding water supply, drainage, education and medical aid having to be shelved for want of funds.
According to the Commissioner the inordinate rise in prices, owing to the war, also argued against the purchase. By the then ruling prices, the total valuation of the B.E.S.T. Company would have been anything between six and ten crores of rupees. In these circumstances, the Commissioner thought, it would be wiser to wait for ten years, by which time he expected the prices to slide back to their old level. Finally, he suggested that consideration of the matter be postponed for two or three years.
The right to buy the B.E.S.T. Company did not cover its Bus Service, which had been granted a permit by the Commissioner of Police under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act. However, as the permit did not imply a monopoly, the Municipal Corporation could operate its own bus service. This would have been perfectly legal, as the Commissioner pointed out, but not practicable.
The Municipal Corporation appointed a committee with the following persons on it to discuss the matter with the Government : the Mayor, the Chairman of the Standing Committee, the Chairman of the Law, Revenue and General Purposes Committee, Shri S.K. Patil, Shri A. P. Sabawalla, Shri Nagindas T. Master and Shri Mirza Akthar Hasan.
This Committee discussed the matter with the Government at Pune on 14th August 1946, the letter being represented by the Home and Revenue Minister, Shri Morarji Desai, the Minister for Local Self-Government, Shri G.D. Vartak, the Minister for Public Health and Public Works, Dr. M.D. Glider, and the Finance Minister, Shri Vaikunthlal Mehta.
The price of the Company will soar high on account of the steep rise in prices generally. A very big loan will have to be floated to meet it.
The Company’s vehicles and machinery are in a ramshackle condition. For their repairs, renewal or replacement a lot of money will have to be set aside.
In these circumstances, should the proposal to buy the Company be postponed by fourteen years, that is, to the next stage for exercising the option to buy? But such postponement would suit the Corporation only if the Agreement in force was revised in some particulars. The particulars were :
The period of fourteen years laid down for the next stage for exercising the option to buy should be reduced to ten years. By then the prices will have come back to their former level.
The Corporation should be given effective representation on the Board of Directors of the Company and in its actual administration.
Since the right to buy the Company devolves upon the Government in case the Corporation does not exercise it, the Government should approve of the revision.
If the Government gives such approval, the revised Agreement should include the right of the Municipal Corporation to buy the bus service.
If the Government does not approve of the proposal to revise the existing Agreement, the Municipal Corporation wishes to exercise its right to buy the Company on 7th August 1947. The bus service should be included in the deal.
The Corporation will have to raise a loan of rupees ten crores in order to effect this deal.
One item in this deal is particularly favourable to the Corporation. The Company has to pay rupees forty lakhs every year as income tax. The Corporation will not have to pay it. Out of this amount the debt charges can be met easily.
It is unsafe to predict if, and when, prices will fall.
That the Company’s vehicles and machinery are in a ramshackle condition is to the advantage of the Corporation, as it will have to pay a lower price for them.
If the Company were to know that its ownership was to last for only ten years, it would be inclined to put its vehicles and machinery to the maximum use to augment its profits.
The Government has been contemplating taking over all the road transport in the State. Once such a decision is taken, the Mumbai bus transport cannot be treated as an exception. However, if it is already acquired by the Municipal Corporation when the Government makes the decision, it will remain with the Corporation. The Corporation should buy the Company’s vehicles, only if they are offered for a reasonable price; else, it should buy new ones. In any case, the Government intends to restrain the Company from profiteering. The Company does not have a monopoly of the bus transport in the city. The permit given to the Company is valid for only four months at a time. If the Municipal Corporation takes over the bus transport, the B.E.S.T. Company’s permit will not be renewed.
If the Corporation does not exercise the option to buy the Company, the Government will exercise its right to do it.
Finally, on 21st October 1946, the Municipal Corporation resolved to buy the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company with its bus transport section. On 16th January 1947, the Municipal Commissioner wrote to the B.E.S.T. Company as follows :
"Pursuant to Clause 24 of the instrument known as the Deed of Concession dated the 7th day of August 1905 and entered into between the Municipal Corporation of the City of Bombay and the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited, and others,
and with the sanction of the Standing Committee of the Corporation recorded by Resolution No.1463, dated the 3rd December 1946, and with the sanction of the Corporation recorded by Resolution No.1198, dated the 6th January 1947, I hereby give notice
on behalf of the Corporation of their intention to purchase the combined undertaking (as defined in the said instrument) with all lands, buildings, installations, plant, machinery, rails, rolling stock, mains, apparatus,
stores and property of every description belonging to the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways Company Limited, or held for the purpose of or in connection with the combined undertaking or any part thereof, with effect from the 7th day of August 1947.
VALUATION OF THE B.E.S. & T. COMPANY
The valuation of the B.E.S.T. Company was a very complicated matter. It was to be referred to an arbitrator in the event of a difference of opinion between the Corporation and the Company. On the basis of the valuation the amount of the loan to be raised to buy the Company was to be fixed. It was most necessary that an expert agency should do the valuation. Accordingly, Messrs, Mulleneuy and Mulleneuy Ltd., Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Technical Investigators, were engaged for the purpose for a fee of Rs.22,000. The assignment was two fold :
To draw up a record of the assets of the Company, with the necessary technical notes.
To settle the value of each item of the assets on the basis of the technical details and notes.
This was one part of the valuation. Another was to keep a justification of the valuation ready, in case the valuation prepared by the Corporation were to be submitted to an arbitrator.
This was a highly responsible job. It was a complicated one too, so far as the engineering and the financial details were concerned.
The Associated Engineering Firm was entrusted with this job. Messrs. Kennedy and Donkin, the renowned consultants of London, were a subsidiary of the Associated Engineering Firm,
which therefore had the best experts available to it. The firm charged its fee on a percentage basis. It was two and a half per cent on value upto twenty thousand rupees .
Then it scaled down by stages till it was one fourth per cent on value above one crore.
There were in addition to the fee, the expenses on the experts travel from England and back, and on their stay here.
The valuation of the B.E.S.T. Company’s buildings was complicated. It was entrusted to Shri G.P. Dandekar, an Assistant Engineer in the Corporation’s service.
VALUATION OF THE BUS TRANSPORT SECTION
By his letter of 18th April 1947 to the Municipal Commissioner, the General Manager of the B.E.S.T. Company offered to sell the B.E.S.T. Company alongwith its bus transport section to the Corporation; but he wanted that since the original Agreement did not include the bus service in the item concerned, the deal should be regarded as an obligatory sale’, and that an amount equal to twenty per cent of the value of the bus transport section should be paid to the Company as goodwill. But this demand was rejected in view of the Government’s policy of nationalising transport and its intention of withdrawing the permission given to the B.E.S.T. Company to run the bus service if the Corporation wanted to run it. However, the payment of goodwill was accepted in pricniple. The Corporation proposed that if there was no agreement on the quantum of compensation, the matter should be referred to arbitration.
According to the advisers of the Corporation, the value of the total assets of the B.E.S.T. Company, including its buildings and the land on which they stood, was Rs.5,39,81,000. The Company’s advisers pitched it at Rs.15,80,28,287. This amount was inclusive of the value of the bus service and the goodwill, which came to Rs.40,00,000. With this wide gap between the two valuations, it was inevitable that the decision should be left to an arbitrator. Meanwhile, the Corporation paid to the Company Rs.6,35,00,000, against the final valuation.
By a resolution passed on 4th March 1948, the Corporation appointed Sir John Kennedy as the arbitrator. He was the Chairman of the Electricity Commission of Great Britain, which looked after the supply of electricity to the country.
The arbitrator’s work was started on 21st February, 1950, and it was over on 11th March 1950. The arbitrator gave his award on 16th March. On the opposite page is a comparative statement of the three valuations : the Company’s, the Corporation’s and the arbitrator’s
The total expenditure on the arbitration came to Rs.57,000. It was shared equally by the two parties. Beside this, the Corporation spent about Rs.88,000 on the experts it had invited to present its case before the arbitrator.
The Municipal Corporation had to raise a loan of seven and a half crores of rupees for this deal.
Valuation of the B.E.S.T. Co.Ltd. (In Lakhs) Rs.
Valuation of The Municipality (in Lakhs) Rs.
Valuation as per the Award (in Lakhs) Rs.
Combined Undertaking (Tramways and Electricity)
|1||Land and Buildings||371.17||161.76||268.98|
|1||Lands and Buildings||32.01||27.63||23.73|
|2||Other Assets||110.57||42.35||77.46||3||Payment for taking over a running concern||20% of the total value||10% of the total value||20.00 (works out to 19.7)||TOTAL||986.58|
Once it was decided that the ownership of the B.E.S.T. Company was to be transferred to the Municipal Corporation, a decision about the Company’s staff had to be taken promptly. The Municipal Commissioner wrote to the General Manager of the Company on 22nd February 1947 to explain the Corporation’s standpoint on the question.
Accordingly, it was decided to absorb the entire staff of the Company in the Corporation’s service on 7th August 1947. The Municipal Commissioner suggested that the staff should be given an assurance to that effect, their attention being drawn to the following :
Since the Share Department was not to continue, its staff would not be absorbed.
Those who had attained the age of 60 on the date would not be accpted. Those who were more than 55, would be allowed to remain in the Corporation’s service for two years or till they were 60, whichever was earlier.
The age of retirement will be 55.
On 21st October 1946 the Corporation resolved to take over the Company. It will grant the absorbed staff the pay and pay-scale on which they were on that day.
Acting on the above letter from the Municipal Commissioner, the General Manager of the Company issued a circular to the members of his staff.
It stated that as the Company was to be taken over on 7th August 1947 by the Corporation it would not need the services of its staff after 31st August 1947, and that as the Corporation had
offered to take over the staff too, with the exception of those above a certain age, the Company would release on 6th August from its service those who would avail of the offer.
The provision that the members of the Company’s staff taken over by the Corporation, would be given the pay and pay scale on which they were working on 21st October, 1946 was intended to stop improper promotions as the Municipal Commissioner explained later. He also gave the assurance that it would not affect any normal and justifiable promotion.
Mr. A.L. Guilford was the General Manager of the B.E.S.T. Company when its ownership passed on to the Municipal Corporation, which retained him in the post.
The salary to be Rs.4,500 per month during the first year and Rs.5,000 during the second year.
A house-rent allowance equivalent to ten per cent of the salary, free electricity for domestic use, and a motor car allowance of Rs.200 per month.
One month’s full-pay leave (to be spent in India) for every eleven month’s service, and two month’s halfpay furlough leave (for going abroad) for every twelve months’ service, with the expenses on travel paid; one month’s sick leave per year, on full pay.
Such benefits as Provident Fund, Gratuity and Saving Fund, according to the rules of the B.E.S.T. Company.
Permission to assist the B.E.S.T. Company or its liquidator, and to accept remuneration for the work.
The BEST Company had to import equipment of various kinds from other countries. It had appointed Tata Limited, London, to represent it in this behalf - to negotiate with manufacturers, to purchase plant and other equipments, to ship it to Mumbai, and to advise the Company on technical matters after consulting the persons and institutions concerned. The Corporation continued the same concern as its agent.
The various departments of the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai were administered under the City of Bombay Municipal Act of 1888. But as the B.E.S.T. Company was not one of them, the Corporation had proposed some additions to the Act, and they were awaiting legislative sanction. Meanwhile to ensure a smooth transition of the services from company management to municipal management, legal sanction was necessary. So the Governor of Bombay promulgated the Government Ordinance II of 1947. The Ordinance provided for the constitution of a statutory committe of not more than nine persons to look after the affairs of the B.E.S.T. The Corporation set up the first B.E.S.T. Committee with the following as members :
The Committee met for the first time at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday, 2nd August 1947, at the head Office of the Corporation, and elected Shri A.P. Sabavala as its Chairman. It was resolved that the Committee would meet at 10.30 a.m. on alternate Fridays at the B.E.S.T. House.
Mr. A. L. Guilford, the General Manager, was given the power of attorney.
The General Manager was given the authority to delegate work.
Sanction was accorded to the following matters, which were subject to further sanction by the Corporation.
The grading schedule of the B.E.S.T. Company.
The Standing Orders of the B.E.S.T. Company.
The Provident Fund Rules of the B.E.S.T. Company.
On 7th August 1947, the General Manager of the B.E.S.T. Company wrote as follows to the Municipal Commissioner regarding the change of hands in the ownership of the company.
"The General Manager on behalf of the B.E.S.T. Co. Ltd. gave the possession of the Company to you on 7.8.1947 in presence of the representatives of the Corporation.
On that day, the newspapers carried a public announcement to the same effect, and at the meeting of the B.E.S.T. Committee held on 8th August the General Manager of the Company made a similar statement.
Although, thus, the deal between the B.E.S.T. Company and the Municipal Corporation went through without a hitch, there was some discontent among the employees of the B.E.S.T. No decision had been taken on the Rules and Conditions of Service applicable to them in the new set-up. In fact, a rumour had been going around that the employees were to go on strike on 7th August. Finally on 6th August, Shri Abid Ali Jafferbhoy, President of the B.E.S.T. Worker’s Union, met the Mayor in this connection, and a compromise was arrived at The Times of India of 7th August reported it as under :
B.E.S.T. Change Hands Today
Buses and Trams as Usual
The buses and tram services of Bombay will function as usual on Thursday (to-day) although the service conditions of the workers remain to be settled by the Municipal Corporation which has taken over the combined Undertakings of the bus and tram services of the B.E.S.T.
This follows a decision reached at a conference held at the Corporation on Wednesday between the Mayor, Mr. A.P. Sabavala, and Mr. Abid Ali Jafferbhoy, President of the B.E.S.T. Workers Union to discuss the service conditions under the new management.
The agreement on service conditions with the old management expired on Wednesday. It was agreed at the Conference that the Mayor, who is the Chairman of the B.E.S.T. Committee and the Corporation, will put the case of the workers effectively before the Committee and bring about a fair settlement.
As such, there is no suspension of work by the workers as contemplated earlier, announces Mr. Abid Ali Jafferbhoy.
On 15th August, 1947, the country achieved freedom. On this joyous occasion the B.E.S.T. Committee announced a bonus for the employees of the concern, as a token of its good will towards them. Those in permanent service, as also the temporary employees who had served for over a year, were to get a month’s pay as bonus.
he B.E.S.T. House and the Electric House, like several other public buildings in the city, were gorgeously illuminated on the night of 15th August to celebrate the historic event. Historic, if in a minor way, was also the nationalisation of the first concern in the country - now the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking - which had just got under way, and one may say that it shared the celebration !
No urban transport service can hope to escape problems, they keep on cropping up all the time. And they have to be tackled !
Else the press and the citizens will not leave you in peace.
Knowing this fully well, the BEST undertaking took charge of the bus and tram transport in the city in 1947, and it soon ran into a whole lot of problems. There was a big spurt in the number of new industries; refugees poured in. The Regional Transport Authority invited the Undertaking to run the bus transport in the suburban area-and that at a twenty-four hours notice. Innumerable housing colonies had sprung up, all over the suburbs, the Government Colony at Bandra (East), the Dhake Colony on the Andheri-Versova Road, the Malvani Colony on the Malad Marve Road, the Nehru Nagar at Kurla, the Tagore Nagar and the Kannamwar Nagar at Vikhroli, the S.G. Barve Nagar at Ghatkopar and the Sardar Nagar near Antop Hill.
Actually, Mumbai had started changing in a big way since World War II. Its population in 1941 was about 14 lakhs; in the next ten years it shot up to 28 lakhs; the next ten years took it to 41 lakhs, and in 1970 it was 56 lakhs. This population explosion, as far as the city was concerned, was most unexpected. Oblong in shape, Mumbai has most of its Government, professional and commercial centres of work concentrated in its southern part. This sets a peculiar traffic pattern : The rush is north-south in the mornings, and in the reverse direction in the evenings.
Mumbai has thus changed a great deal from what it was about fifty years ago. But the changes, and the difficulties of adjustment that changes usually bring, did not come suddenly. They were spread over the years. In its early years the Undertaking tried ad-hoc solution to every problem that cropped up. The available buses were re-allocated amongst the various routes, according to the pressure of traffic. The seating arrangement in the buses was altered to squeeze in a few more passengers. The procedure for repairing the buses was streamlined so as to reduce the number of buses on ‘sick list’, and more buses were acquired. But the Undertaking also gave a thought to long-term measures like getting a scientific survey of the bus-routes made with the help of a computer, or getting experts to study the possibilities of using alternative means of transport like underground railway, mono rail, water-bus or mini-bus. These fifty years the Undertaking has been conscientiously trying to plan for and provide as efficient a service as it can. It discovered that a short-term measure can only bring a temporary cure. Every increase in the pressure of traffic rendered such measures futile. But the experience was not futile. It strengthened the Undertaking’s resolve to pursue its problems to their roots, and also to equip itself for the task. And thus we have a much improved bus service - and the people appreciate it !
THE GROWING FLEET
The Undertaking applied itself to improving its service in many of its aspects, but the prime need was for increasing the number of buses. Since its inception in August 1947, the Undertaking has been making a well-planned effort to meet the need. Every year brought new vehicles. In 1947, 242 vehicles were on the roads. In ten years the number swelled to 582.
A double-decker bus was more suitable than a single-decker one, for occupying no more road space than the latter and with only one driver, it carried one and a half times as many passengers.
In the early days of the Undertaking a pressing need was increase the carrying capacity of the buses. The ‘standee’ bus system introduced in 1955 was one attempt in that direction. It was restricted in the beginning to vehicles of a particular type. In thse buses, ten standees were allowed in the city, and seven in the suburbs. In 1958, the permission was extended to some double-decker buses; these were allowed to take eight standees.
ALL STANDEES BUS
Another innovation came in 1967 : the "all standee" bus. It has only a few seats, the rest of the space being for straphanging passengers. These buses were put on short routes. It was hoped that they would reduce the period of waiting in the queue for the passengers. But the passengers were not impressed. Finally, in 1970, the buses had to be withdrawn.
1967 saw yet another type of bus put on the roads : the articulated bus. There were ten of them. The Undertaking was the first transport organisation in the country to use such a bus. The engine was separate from the bus in this vehicle, and the two were joined together. The vehicle was of entirely Indian make, with the Ashok Leyland of Madras manufacturing the tractor-engine, and Mahindra Owen of Poona building the ‘bus’ part of it.
In the days of the B.E.S.T. Company, the proposal to run trolley buses was seriously considered. The Undertaking too gave a thought to it. Its tramcars had been ageing fast. Could a convenient substitute be found? So it decided to go in for trolley-buses. Twelve such vehicles were imported, and they replaced the tramcars on the Gowalia Tank-Mazgaon route on 11th June 1962. Somehow, the service did not do well. The trolley buses would go out of order again and again. They were finally withdrawn on 24th March 1971 in favour of ordinary buses. One reason for the failure of the service was that as it passed along very congested roads its speed had to be kept much below its maximum; and the trolley-bus had to run at a good speed in order to be profitable, as experience showed. As such speed is impracticable on any of the old tram-routes,
it seems very unlikely that trolley-buses will be tried again in the city.
The undertaking had eight luxury coaches, and they were open to hire at three rupees per mile, but the demand for them was very limited. Therefore, to put them to profitable use, the Undertaking started a ‘Coach Service’ in 1966. The service operated every day between Electric House and Sion, and between Dadar and Juhu on Sundays and holidays. There was a special fare for this service : 8 paise per kilometer. Once the novelty of riding in a luxury coach wore out, the higher fares tended to discourage passengers from using it, unless they had no time to wait for the regular service bus.
The service lasted for hardly a year. With more ‘limited’ services introduced on the Sion-Fort route, the Coach Service was patronised even less. The income from the service started dwindling, while the operating costs kept rising. Finally, in June 1967, it was discontinued.
The idea of using mini-buses was first mooted in March 1969. The vehicle was to be something between a taxi and a bus, and it was to be used for short runs. According to the initial scheme, for a flat charge of 30 paise, mini-buses were to ply on the following routes : Strand Cinema to Nagar Chowk (Bori Bunder) or Ballard Estate or Churchgate; Colaba Bus Station to Churchgate; Museum to Mahatma Phule Market (Crawford Market); and Pydhoni to Dhobi Talao. In addition to using the bus stops, the mini-buses were to set down or pick up passengers on request. The driver was also to act as the conductor. It was intended to use station wagons for this service.
A year before the proposal started taking shape, some public bodies approached the Undertaking with the request that it start a mini-bus service on certain routes as between the Ghatkopar Railway Station and the S.G. Barve Nagar, for example.
Some of the undeveloped areas in the suburbs have narrow and take ordinary buses. Mini-buses would be particularly useful in such areas.
Mini-buses could be used to provide direct and speedy transport between the suburbs and the central parts of the city.
BUS TRANSPORT IN SUBURBS
The Bandra Bus Company used to run the bus service in the Western suburbs. As the Company refused to comply with the Regional Transport Authority’s order that only the main road in those suburbs should be used for the service, the Authority requested the B.E.S.T. Undertaking to take it over immediately. That was on 30th September, 1949. The request was more of a challenge - for it meant assuming the responsibility of providing transport for 50,000 passengers at twenty-four hours’ notice. The undertaking accepted the challenge. And on 1st October 1949, B.E.S.T. buses started plying in the western suburbs. Twenty-six buses were spared for the service, which was hailed by the residents of the suburbs as a boon. The Undertaking was overwhelmed with expressions of praise and gratitude. The Undertaking bought eleven of the buses the Bandra Bus Company had been using.
The Undertaking also took over the employees of the old company. The old fare, in the suburbs, was 12 pies per mile; the Undertaking changed it to 9 pies per mile, which had been its fare for the city.
In January 1955, the Undertaking launched its bus service in the eastern suburbs. Thus it came to serve the entire suburban area, carrying nine lakhs of passengers every day. This was about the same as the number of suburban passengers using the two railways. However, the eastern suburbs had some private bus services still plying. The Undertaking asked for their closure. The matter dragged on in a court of law for four years. The verdict, given in February 1959, was for the closure of the private services.
The Undertaking applied to the Regional Transport Authority for permission to extend its bus service to the areas newly included in Greater Bombay - that is up to Mulund in the east and Dahisar in the west. Meanwhile the operators of private buses had moved the High Court for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. On the High Court turning down their plea, the Authority granted the necessary permission to the Undertaking, from 1st December 1960.
INCENTIVE BONUS SCHEME FOR THE EMPLOYEES
To provide the passengers with a comfortable bus service needs a sufficient number of vehicles. The Undertaking has always been trying to achieve such sufficiency. But then what does ‘sufficient’ mean? You cannot define it. The vehicles are just one factor in a bus transport system. There are others like the conductors, the drivers, the maintenance staff and the repairs staff in the workshops. If all these employees are not up to the mark, no increase in the number of buses is going to make it ‘sufficient’. So much depends on the proportion of vehicles stabled for repairs.
Similarly, the efficiency of the service depends a good deal on the conductor and the driver not unnecessarily holding up the movement of their vehicle, the conductor issuing tickets promptly, and taking care to avoid altercation with the passengers. Efforts to secure such efficiency have to be made methodically. Some efforts made by the Undertaking in this direction in the beginning were as follows :
The system of granting an efficiency bonus of Rs.25 every quarter was started in 1951. It applied to both the conductors and the drivers. To be eligible for the bonus, the employed had to attain a certain level in attendance and in efficiency.
Absenteeism among employees is epidemic in the March June period. For lack of conductors and drivers, the usual number of buses cannot go out on the roads. A special bonus scheme had therefore been instituted for this period, to dissaude them from going on leave.
A scheme called ‘Model Unit’ was started in 1961. To find out the defects in the maintenance of vehicles, and to decide on the remedies for them, fifty vehicles of the same make were grouped together, and their maintenance was to be carried out according to the methods and time-table laid down by the manufacturers. On the basis of this, a model maintenance system was to be finalised, and then aplied to all the vehicles of that make. To operate the scheme, fifty double-decker buses of Leyland Titan make were grouped together in the Central Depot. Similar groups were made in the other depots, one by one. Selected drivers were put on these vehicles.
Sometimes it is minor defect which puts a bus out of action. In order that such a bus should not get stuck on the road for long, mechanics were stationed specially for the job at some of the starters’ chowkies at the important termini. To deal with major defects there is a ‘Breakdown Lorry or Van’. The van goes to the ailing bus, and sets it right as quickly as possible.
The schemes like ‘bus running control’, the wireless van, etc. were in operation. The wireless van is a special feature. It does important jobs like reporting breakdowns of vehicles to the staff concerned or asking for extra buses at points where there are inordinately long queues of passengers.
These schemes were definitely instrumental in increasing efficiency. And yet they seemed to fall short of the requirements.
There were not enough vehicles. The proportion of absentees came down, but even then it was large enough to affect the working. Would the recruitment of women conductors bring about an improvement in the attendance? This was considered in 1951.
Then there were the sick vehicles. Although their proportion was gradually coming down, it was still considerably higher than in the bus systems in cities like London, New York and Tokyo. There was much scope for improvement in the maintenance of vehicles. The rainy season brought in its wake a flood of complaints about leaking roofs and windows that got stuck. The population of the city kept growing. It was a trying situation, and it called for more throughgoing and fundamental improvement. "The Incentive Bonus Scheme for Bus Transport instituted in April 1967 proved quite effective in combating some of the troubles mentioned above.
BONUS SCHEME FOR CONDUCTORS
Under this scheme, a conductor was to be granted a bonus for extra ‘work’. The fare collected by him during the month was taken as his ‘work’. Some of the immediate benefits of the scheme were as follows :
The number of complaints received from passengers dropped from 600 to 400 per month.
The Undertaking could cope with the traffic without increasing the number of buses.
Passengers had to wait for a shorter time in queues.
The proportion of absentees among conductors came down.
New Incentive Bonus Scheme
Like the conductors, the three categories of staff namely Bus Drivers, Workers in the Traffic and Engineering Departments and the Maintenance Staff are important in a bus-transport system achieving maximum efficiency. But, in their case, the efficiency is not of an individual; it is the result of the co-operative effort of workers from each of the three categories. Such joint effort enables a bus to run smoothly and punctually. This scheme was designed to keep more buses running - that is, to reduce the number of ‘sick’ buses.
In 1969, this scheme brought down the percentage of ‘sick’ vehicles by 2 to 3 per cent - which meant 100 vehicles more on the road. In that year about 4,000 drivers, 200 of the traffic supervisory staff and 2,000 maintenance workers joined the scheme.
The workshops too came under a similar scheme from 1st October 1969. The measure of efficiency in this case was the number of vehicles lying idle in the workshop waiting for repairs. This scheme too had proved effective, the percentage of vehicles under repairs dropping.
MORE FACILITIES FOR JOURNIES BY BUS
You have read of the various schemes operated by the Undertaking to augment the efficiency of its transport service. Simultaneously, more facilities, besides the daily bus service, were being made available. Since the days of the B.E.S.T. Company, schools and private parties had been hiring out buses, and the practice continued. Some facilities tried out by the Undertaking were given up after a while as unworkable. The Luxury Coach Service was one of these. It was started in August 1955. The coach was fitted up with all manner of conveniences like Dunlopillo cushions for the seats, adjustable backs, a reading light for each seat, and fans. The coach was mainly meant for the use of foreign tourists. They were taken round in the coach on a guided tour of the city. Accompanying them was a guide to tell them about the important places. As the Coach Service failed to get sufficient response, it was closed down in 1971.
There was a ‘Sunday Excursion’, specially meant for visitors to the city. The bus left from the Taj Mahal Hotel every Sunday morning, and stopped at Hanging Gardens, the Juhu Beach, the Aarey Colony, the Powai Lake, Ghatkopar and Chembur, before returning to the Taj Mahal Hotel in the evening.
In 1961, the "Travel-As-You-Like-Ticket" was introduced. Rs.1.50 was the price for adults, and 75 paise for children. It was issued for Sundays and Holidays only. This ticket entitled the holder to travel anywhere in the city and the suburbs. But as it was found that the facility was misused, the Undertaking abolished it in 1967.
DEPOTS AND BUS STATIONS
The undertaking had to build more and more depots and bus stations at suitable places in the city and in the suburbs as its bus service went on expanding. In a depot, a vehicle is cleaned up, its machine is oiled, and minor repairs are done. For major overhaul, of course, the vehicle has to be sent to the workshop.
The BEST Undertaking started a ferry service at Manori in 1981. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation entrusted the running of the service to the Undertaking acknowledging its excellent bus service, as it were. The Undertaking has justified the trust placed in it by making a success of the Marve-Manori ferry service.
Even after the B.E.S.T. Company was taken over by the Municipal Corporation, the bus fares continued unchanged till 31st March, 1951. For the city the fares were telescopic, that is, as the distance increased the fare per mile came down. For the suburbs, the fare was ‘flat’, that is, it remained the same whatever the distane. For one anna you could go a mile and a half in the city, but only one mile in the suburbs.
Then came the changes in the fare-structures. From April 1951, bus travel in the city became even cheaper, with the basic fare of one anna taking you a mile and three quarters. However, the fractional fares, like 1.1/2 anna or 2.1/2 annas and 3.1/2 annas, for the fare ‘stages’ were rounded off to the full anna. In the suburbs too the fare was brought down from one anna per mile to nine pies, that is three quarters of anna
The disparity in the fares for the city and the suburbs was brought to an end in October 1955. The suburbs naturally profited from this. For an anna you could now travel a mile and three quarters, instead of a mile and a quarter. But the fractional fares were restored.
In 1959, with decimal coinage coming into force, except for the 7 paise fare for the first stage, all the fares were multiples of five, that is, 10, 15, 20 and so on. These came into effect from 15th January 1959. From 21st April 1963, the minimum fare was raised from 7 paise to 10 paise.
The nutrition surcharge is 10 paise on ticket upto Rs.2/- & 15 paise on tickets above two w.e.f. 1.4.1994.
Every day the Undertaking’s buses run about 6.51 lakh km. and carry about 47 lakh passengers. These figures are an index of the vastness of the transport system. It would be wrong to expect that everything will run smoothly in such an organization. Troubles have to be taken for granted; difficulties will arise. The organization has to take them in its stride. A trivial incident touches off a lightning strike. There is hectic running about. The complaint is traced to a misunderstanding. It is set right, and normal working is resumed. In 1950, the Undertaking had a serious problem to face. Conductors in those days carried a ‘ticket-issuing’ machine, specially designed to print and produce a ticket of the required denomination at the turning of a handle. The machine recorded the amount automatically. At the end of his day, the conductor had to pay in the day’s takings as recorded. This sounds smooth and foolproof. But some conductors, who were obviously anything but foolish, found a way of so manipulating the machine as to make it record less than the amount collected. How much the Undertaking was fleeced of was anybody’s guess. However, the moment the trick was discovered, the Undertaking took swift action, and in twenty-four hours the ticket-issuing machine with every conductor was replaced with a ticket-box.
These are ‘internal’ troubles; not all of them cause disturbance to the transport service. But ‘external’ troubles invariably do, and sometimes they can be serious. The dislocation caused by the first heavy showers of the rainy season is almost a matter of habit. The low-lying parts of the city are flooded, and buses have to be diverted. To make it worse, the railway services too are disrupted. That puts further responsibility on the bus service. The buses, of course, do their best, but the best in such circumstances can never be good enough. Then there are the railway accidents, and man-made troubles like strikes, riots and hartals (or bandhs). They put a heavy strain on the bus service, but it has not been found wanting.
Strikes and political agitations usually aim, among other things, at disrupting communications. Buses, on such occasions, are exposed to the risk of being damaged; the driver’s cabin has to be fitted with wire meshes to protect him from different types of flying missiles. On some of these occasions not many people move out. Should the bus service be suspended then? The Undertaking does not opt for it; it owes a duty to the community.
There is always a limit to the number of buses a transport organization can run, and to its efficiency as well, for there is a limit to what the city roads can carry. Other means of conveyance too keep increasing in number. In Mumbai, for instance, in 1951, the number of vehicles, leaving out buses, was 45,000. In 1961 it was 85,000, and in 1971 it reached 1,80,000. Today there are over 6 lakh vehicles on Mumbai roads. The number continues to grow; but over the years the roads have been the same, except for a few additions, and some widening here and there. In such a situation, the vehicles have to move slower and slower. The average speed of our buses has been falling down. At present it is 12 to 15 km. per hour. In the congested localities it is as low as 6km. per hour.
THE END OF THE TRAM WAYS
Transport is a very important factor in the economic organisation of a modern city. With the concentration of industrial and other employment in a city,
there is tremendous increase in the movement of men and goods. The pace of such movement has an impact on the economics of the organisation
Transport is like the lungs of the orgniszation. Transport in the city of Mumbai is handled by the two railways and the B. E. S. T. Undertaking.
The Undertaking carried more passengers than the two railways put together and yet, it must be admitted, there is considerable scope for improvement
in its bus service.
The B. E. S. T. Undertaking is always thinking to use other modes of transport. It gave consideration to the following alternative means of transport, having obtained expert advice on them :
Overhead Railway (Aerial Monorail), and
The idea of installing an aerial ropeway in Mumbai first came up in 1953. It was to connect Chowpatty and Malbar Hill.
Coaches each with four seats were to slide up and down the steel ropeway. To enable the passengers to get a panoramic view the coach was to be fitted with glass windows. A German expert helped finalise the details of the scheme. The Corporation approached the Government for permission to operate the aerial ropeway. But somehow inspite of all efforts the scheme never materialized.
This form of transport for Mumbai was first thought of as early as in 1924. As conceived at first, it was to be a circular route joining Bombay Central, the Khada Parsi Statue (Nagpada), the J.J. Hospital, Pydhoni, Crawford Market, Bori Bunder, Marine Lines, Charni Road and Kennedy Bridge. Later, a straight north-south route was proposed. In 1954, the scheme was submitted to the State Government for approval. The government thought it impracticable as the outlay on the railway would be huge. But the population of the city kept growing so fast that the need for such a railway was felt more and more keenly by the Corporation, the B. E. S. T. Undertaking, and by the Government as well.
In 1956 the scheme came up, once again, with much impetus this time. During his visit to Japan, Shri T. S. Rao, the then Chief Engineer of the Undertaking made a study of the underground railway system in that country, and on his return submitted his report on it. In the light of the report, the scheme for an underground railway in Mumbai was considered at a meeting attended by the members of the B. E. S. T. Committee, the representatives of the Central and the Western Railways and the Special Engineer of the Municipal Corporation. The meeting decided to conduct a geological survey of the city for this purpose, and assigned the job to Messers. Higashi and Tsuji, a Japanese firm. This was the first actual step taken in direction of providing Mumbai with an underground railway. After the report of the survey was received, the General Manager of the Unertaking drew up a plan to build an underground railway from Museum to Dadar, via Mohamadali Road and Dr. Ambedkar Road, Then the Government was approached for financial assistance for the preliminary work on the scheme; but the Government would not give it, and the scheme got stuck once again.
The next time the scheme moved was in 1962, when the then Engineer-in-charge of the Undertaking, Shri P. G. Patankar, was sent to Berlin and Milan to study the underground railway systems there, and for training. He recorded his observations and suggestions on underground railway in great detail in the report he submitted. His plan for proposed underground railway for the city envisaged five stages. In 1964 the Japan Consulting Institute invited the Undertaking to send its representative to see the working of Japan’s underground railway system. Accordingly, the Undertaking’s General Manager, Shri G. A. Sharma; the Chief Engineer of its Electric Supply Department, Shri K. N. Rao and its Engineer-in-charge, Shri P. G. Patankar, visited Japan. On their return, they submitted their report to the Undertaking. However for want of huge capital investment it could not be materialised.
OVERHEAD RAILWAY ( MONORAIL)
Having examined the underground mass rapid transit system, the Undertaking also gave thought to overhead rapid transit which principally comprises of electric rolling stock with pneumatic tyres running on a single wide flanged concrete rail instead of the two conventional narrow steel rails and supported on elevated pylons. This system is popularly called ‘Monorail’.
The idea of monorail dates as far back as the 19th century. There were certain patents, designs and achievements though they are not much known to-day. These achievements did gain much ground but ultimately fell into the greatest disrepute, except a few short lengths probably in Germany. There were mainly two reasons for this disrepute. Firstly, they made unbearable noise for the inhabitants of the streets over which they ran and, secondly, the elevated lines encumbered in an abusive manner the sky over the streets.
With the city of Mumbai surrounded by the sea on three sides, water bus transport for it was bound to suggest itself, and it did in 1958. In December that year the Bombay Steam Navigation Company decided to close down its launch service linking the city with Uran, Rewas and Dharamtar. This naturally agitated those who used the service daily, and they could be counted in hundreds. A meeting of citizens passed a resolution requesting the Municipal Corporation to take over the launch service. It was intended that the B. E. S. T. Undertaking should run the service, and extend it later to more places in the Kolaba district, like Mandva and Alibag. The sponsors of the proposal argued that if a safe, convenient and punctual service of this kind was available it would help reduce the congestion in the city - and the strain on its transport systems - by encouraging industries and people to migrate from the city to the mainland across the harbour. In 1959, the Corporation submitted the proposal to the Undertaking for consideration. The Government too was interested. In March 1969 the Director of Transport suggested that a water bus service be run on two routes, one starting from the Sassoon Dock and going up the creek to Chembur, touching Ballard Pier, the Ferry Wharf and Wadala on the way, the other, on the Western side, starting from the Foreshore Road and terminating at either Bandra or Versova,touching Chowpatty, Walkeshwar and Mahim. The Undertaking however pleaded its inability to work such a scheme for lack of funds.
But the Undertaking could not be indifferent to the water bus scheme, with the strain on its bus service growing worse year by year. So in 1969, a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Shri G. H. Lalwani, the then General Manager, to examine the scheme in all its aspects. More important aspects were : the financial viability; whether it could be an all-weather service or would it have to be suspended during the rainy season, with the financial repercussions, if the latter were the case; the traffic the service was likely to draw; and the precautions to be taken to ensure safety for the passengers;
Mumbai is not the only big city harassed by the problems of providing adequate transport for its people. It is the same all over the world. The pressure of traffic is heavy only during certain hours. And it is only in one direction. A transport service therefore has to have enough vehicles to cope with the peakhour traffic. During the rest of the time the vehicles don’t have enough passengers It is not so with a State Transport bus. It has evenly distributed traffic. Moreover, a city transport service, in catering to the needs of its passengers, has often to operate unprofitable routes.
EXIT THE TRAMCAR
Horse-drawn tramcars had been running in Mumbai since 1874,. When the electric tramcar appeared for the first time in the city on 7th May 1907, it was given a warm welcome as a very modern mode of transport. When the bus arrived on the scene in 1926, the tram-car ceased to be modern; but this did not affect its usefulness. In fact it became quite important as the poor man’s transport’ and continued to be so till the Second World War. The years that followed brought dramatic changes in the life of the city. Its population started growing rapidly. The people wanted faster transport. the tramcar was, however, innnocent of the fast-changing environment and it continued to rumble up and down, in its 1907 manner. There was, of course, little scope for improvement. If anything, it moved at an even slower pace, thanks to the congestion on the roads. It found the crowds bothersome and the crowds found it a clumsy, lumbering impediment to the smooth flow of traffic. The poor thing had no place in this swift-changing city. It had to go. The city had already started thinking of quicker substitutes for it.
When the B. E.S. T. Undertaking took over the tramway in 1947 it was quite decrepit. Eight days later, Mumbai went gay in celebration of the advent of freedom. There were illuminations on two consecutive nights, and almost every Mumbaite was out on the street to enjoy the dazzling sight. Every available vehicle was pressed into service by the people, and it was made to carry the maximum number. The poor tramcars had the worst time of all, with crazy persons riding on the top and hanging on to the windows, when their inside was jam-packed. Ill-treated thus, many of the tramcars became ‘sick’. The city soon recovered from, its delirium of joy and got back to its normal life, but somehow the tramcars continued to be abnormally crowded. Their number too kept dwindling, with more and more of them being withdrawn fom service. The Undertaking tried to get the Government to impose a limit on the number of passengers a tramcar might carry, but to no avail. By the beginning of 1948, only 186 of the total fleet of 258 tramcars were fit to ply.
The tramway system had been running at a loss when the Undertaking took it over. The losses kept on mounting year after year and something had to be done about them. It was not quite so easy to raise the fares. So other methods were tried. One of them was to abolish the transfer ticket. This concession had been there since the tramway started. It was an interesting concession and this is how it worked : Suppose, you had to go from Colaba to Dadar. You boarded a tram bound for Pydhoni. The conductor would give you a ticket for Dadar, punched for ‘transfer’ Dhobi Talao. You got off at Dhobi Talao, did what work you had there, and took a tram bound for Opera House, The Conductor now punched your ticket for ‘transfer’ at Girgaon, where you got down for some work you had there, and then boarded a tram for Dadar. And all this for just one anna! Not more than two ‘transfers’ were allowed. To get the best out of one ticket, through two ‘transfers’, used to be looked upon by practical people, as a test of your ingenuity, and of your knowledge of tram-routes! The concession was withdrawn from 2nd January 1951.
But this did not improve matters appreciably for the Undertaking. The service continued to incur losses. In 1952 a survey of tram traffic was conducted. Acting on it, the Undertaking put fewer trams on routes with insufficient traffic.
This did not go far enough, either. The truth was that tramway had come to be an outdated mode of transport and the Undertaking had to face this squarely. So, in 1953, it started closing down the uneconomic routes. The one plying between Null Bazar and Jacob Circle (Route No.12) was the first to be closed down, its place being taken by a bus route. That was on 6th April 1953. Then a few others went, one by one No.19 from Ballard Pier to Sandhurst Bridge. No.20 from Dhobi Talao to Reay Road No.21, from Sandhurst Bridge to Tank Bunder, No.2 from Golpitha to Tank Bunder, No.22 from Museum to Tank Bunder. They were all replaced by bus-routes. More and more tram routes were closed down in the years that followed. Finally only one remained : the one between Bori Bunder and Dadar. And the last tram on this route left Bori Bunder at 10 p.m. on 31st March 1964. Thus the tramway in Mumbai came to an end!
The origins of the Kingsway Workshop go back to the Colaba Causeway workshop of the Bombay Tramways Company as it then was.
The workshop was opened there in 1886. People living in the surrounding area complained of nuisance from the workshop in 1910 and the
Company (by now the B.E.S.T. Company) decided to shift the workshop to a convenient spot in the north of the city. Accordingly,
in June 1915 land was acquired from the Improvement Trust at Kingsway, between Dadar and Matunga,
on a 999-year lease. A workshop was soon erected on the plot.
The workshop undertook the repairs of both the coachwork and the electrical machinery of trams.
It was equipped with all the necessary machines, such as a heavy-duty shaping machine, a tyre-cutting lathe, a tyre-heating furnace,
an armature-winding plant, a coil-testing machine, etc. The work was carried out in sections such as the truck shop, the paint shop, the machine shop, etc.
When bus services were introduced in 1926, a bus workshop was opened in Colaba. Transportation engineering was now divided into
separate sections for trams and buses. When the Colaba workshop began to prove inadequate to the needs of buses, another bus workshop
was opened at Dadar near the tram workshop. This workshop had various sections for repairs to chassis (base-frame, engine and wheels),
body and ancillaries, and seats and windows, a paint shop, a machine stop, an electrical section, a unit section,
calibration and lubrication, a tyre section, etc.
After 1947, the workshop space was found to be inadequate with the expansion of the bus service. In 1950, further land was acquired next to the Kingsway Tram Workshop and the new Workshop was planned to maintain a fleet of 600 buses.
When trams were abolished in 1964, the tram sheds in the Kingsway Workshop were taken over for the expansion of the Bus Workshop. This was a useful temporary expedient; but these sheds had been specially designed for trams and did not permit a scientifically planned expansion of the Bus workshop.
UNIFICATION OF TRAM AND BUS WORKSHOPS
When the trams were abolished, the tram and bus workshops were merged. The pits in the tram sheds (for under carriage repairs) were filled in and levelled and the space was allotted to bus body repair sections. Machines no longer useful were sold. Some of the tram workshop staff were redundant under the new arrangement and under the regulations, could have been retrenched on payment of compensation. They were, however, suitably re-trained and absorbed in the bus workshop.
The rearrangements at unifaction were carried out as methodically as possible. The space needed for each section was calculated as for an assumed fleet of 1500 buses. The layout of the Shops was arranged, so as to avoid unnecessary movement of materials. The work of shifting of machinery and equipment and merging of shops was carried out without affecting the daily production.
At the time the Municipality took over the B.E.S.T. Company, double decker buses constituted 65 to 70 per cent of the fleet, the rest were single deckers. Economically, this was a sound proportion.
The chassis (and spare parts of the chassis) of D.D. buses were imported from England. However, in 1961, the Government of India laid down restrictions on the import of D.D. chassis, as it was proposed to manufacture the chassis in India. the import of spare parts was also severely restricted.
The Undertaking’s buses were in a grave state at this period. Most were old. New chassis were not available. The fleet utilization was 81 per cent. i.e. out of every 100 vehicles only 81 were available for actual service; the other 19 were in the workshop awaiting repairs. Shortage of spares delayed their repair. In the circumstances, two alternatives were open : one, to purchase the uneconomic single-deckers, for they were being manufactured in India; the other, to strive for self-sufficiency by repairing the existing double-deckers with maximum efficiency and putting them on the road again.
Transportation Engineering accepted the challenge and started methodical work. About 50 vehicles in the available fleet were temporarily withdrawn from service and brought into the workshop. Their units were dismantled and the parts were thoroughly inspected for the degree of wear and tear. Then they were sorted into reparable and condemned.
Inquiries were set on foot about the possibilities of having replacements for the condemned parts manufactured in the country. Indian manufacturers were induced to undertake the manufacture of parts which were needed on a large scale, such as pistons rings, valve guides, rocker shafts, main and big-end bearings for Gardener engines. etc.
The same solution could not be adopted for parts which were not needed in large quantities. Attempts were made to repair them in the workshop. With processes such as welding and metal-spraying, sleeving, metal-stitching, such parts as valves, crank-shafts, master-cylinders, wheel-cylinders, tappets, flywheel housings, cam-shafts, etc., were given a new lease of life.
Until the B.E.S.T. Company was taken over by the Municipality, only the Colaba Depot was available for the maintenance of buses and minor repairs. As the fleet grew, the need for more depots was felt. In 1961 the fleet comprised 1045 buses in all. Six new depots were constructed for their maintenance. The Wadala Depot was equipped for the maintenance of 300 buses. At this time it was the largest depot in Asia. After this, taking long maintenance experience into account, the authorities decided that no depot should be called on to look after more than 125 to 150 buses. Accordingly, small depots were built at convenient spots in the city and its suburbs.
Standardization of Bus Construction :
From an engineering point of view, a bus has two main components : the body or coachwork and chassis (together with the engine and the transmission) on which the body is built. Both were standardized as far as possible.
In the period upto 1960 different manufacturers built varying bus-bodies. Some bus-bodies were of composite type and some were built of steel and aluminium. These variations proved troublesome and costly in maintenance. A decision to have complete metal bodies was taken and brought into effect from 1962. Another early step was to standarize the various fitments on bus-bodies.
In 1967, with a view to standardizing bus construction, buses were classified into three types. Type A comprised single deckers, steel-built throughout. Type B comprised double - deckers, also steel-built throughout. Type C included both single deckers and double-deckers and used both steel and aluminium in their construction.
Manufacturers build these types of buses in conformity with special designs prepared by the Transportation Engineering Department. The demands of city transport are different in some respects from those of other transport. In the city gear-changes are far more frequent and brakes must be extremely efficient. A large diesel tank is required; medium horse-power is adequate for the engine. Transportation Engineering takes all these requirements into account in designing a chassis to suit the special needs of city traffic. Efforts are being made to improve the bus-bodies and make them better looking.
It has been already indicated that the erstwhile Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company started supplying electricity to the city in 1905. Until 1926,
the Company had been generating its own electricity for distribution to its consumers. Later, the Tata Electric Companies started supplying electricity to the BEST.
The Tata Electric Companies (The Andhra Valley Power Supply Co. The Tata Power Supply Co., The Tata Hydroelectric Power Supply Co.) generated electricity from their reservoirs at Bhira, Bhivpuri and Khopoli in the Western Ghats. A major portion of it was transmitted through 110,000 Volts overhead lines to their Receiving Stations at Dharavi and Parel. In these Receiving Stations the voltage used to be transformed to 22,000 and 6,600 volts for ease of distribution. The Tata Electric Companies provided, through their cables, electricity at requisite voltage to the industries and mills, the Railways, the Bombay Suburban Electric Supply Company and the BEST.
In 1947, when the Company was taken over by the Municipal Corporation, the Undertaking was buying electricity from Tatas at nine receiving points known as : Kussara, Mahim, Kingsway, Jamnadas, Suparibag, Lalbaug, Esplanade, Palton and Backbay. At all these points, except Kussara, Kingsway and Mahim, the supply was received at 6,600 Volts. The supply was received at 22,000 Volts and transformed through Tatas’ transformers to 5,500 Volts at Kussara and to 6,600 Volts at Kingsway and Mahim. From these receiving points the cable network carried power to 247 Substations situated in different areas of the city. With the help of transformers at these substations, the voltage was further transformed to 400/230 Volts, suitable for use in the factory, shop and home. It was made available to the consumers through a low voltage distribution network and service cables to individual buildings. The major portion of electricity distributed was at Alternating Current (A.C.). But, in some areas of South Bombay, particularly Fort, Kalbadevi and Girgaum, Direct Current (D.C.) was supplied at a voltage of 460/230 Volts. To convert it into D.C., Rotary Converters were operated at Pathakwadi, Telwadi, Apollo and Palton Road Substations and Mercury Arc Rectifiers were used at Phirozshah Mehta Road substation.
PROGRESS SINCE MUNICIPALISATION
Soon after the Corporation took over the Company, India got its freedom. This meant a reconsideration of the major objectives of the Undertaking and a reorientation of its outlook in the context of the changing political situation. The Second World War had also given a new impetus to the utilisation of electricity.
The Undertaking not only continued many of the healthy traditions set by the Company but also improved its methods of working. The Undertaking is now well known in India for its service of providing electricity with minimum interruptions and at proper voltage, at the minimum cost. It is also known for the quick restoration of supply in the event of any faults developing in the distribution system.
In the fifty years since municipalisation, the maximum demand on the system has risen from 53,000 kilowatts to 6,33,000 kilowatts; the number of substations from 247 to about 1733; the length of underground cables from 1,263 kilometres to 6,966 kilometres; the number of consumers from 1,08,000 to 7,98,152; the number of street lamps from 2,215 to 33,534.
Refrigerators, air-conditioners, geysers, television sets and other electrical appliances are now being extensively used in homes. The use of air-conditioning and better standards of lighting in the office is also becoming increasingly popular. In the factories and entertainment centres the use of electricity is on the increase. Skyscrapers have come into being and so have hutments. All this expansion has necessitated the use of modern and sophisticated equipment. The responsibilities of the electric supply branch of the Undertaking have become correspondingly greater and more complex.
ELECTRIC SUPPLY SYSTEM
In the days of the BEST Company some parts of the network were supplied at 5,500 Volts and in some other areas the distribution voltage was 6,600 Volts. This non-uniformity led to considerable loss of flexibility. More important, it was realised that at the higher voltage of 6,600 voltage, 20 per cent more electricity could be conveyed and this without major replacement of equipment. So, after elaborate planning, in 1954, the 5,500 Volts system was changed over to 6,600 Volts. This major change was carried out with no interruptions in the supply to consumers. In 1949 the Undertaking established its first 22000 volts receiving station at Grant Road. This was followed by 22,000 volts receiving station at Apollo. In 1955, two more receiving stations at Kingsway and Kussara were changed over 22,000 volts and all 6600 volts metering points were eliminated. As on today BEST has 35 receiving stations including two 110 KV receiving stations. The demands on the system were growing and further changes were necessary. Under an Agreement with Tatas in 1956, they established a third Receiving Station at Carnac Bunder. This new station and the existing 2 stations at Parel and Dharavi, now became the Undertaking’s only points of supply. The supply was now taken at these 3 points and metered at 22,000 Volts. The Undertaking laid 22 KV cables from these points to it own receiving stations, the voltage was stepped down from 22,000 volts to 6,600 volts through the Undertaking’s own transformers for feeding into its 6,600 Volts system. The elimination of the old 6,600 Volts Receiving Stations was spread over a period of years. It was changed over to 22,000 Volts as and when new Receiving Stations were built by the B.E.S.T. Thus in 1956, the Worli Receiving Station was established at Fergusson Road. This was followed by many Receiving Stations at various places.
To supply electricity at a steady voltage is an important responsibility of the Supply Branch. There are considerable variations in the voltage received from Tatas at the different Receiving Stations. To compensate for these fluctuations, the Undertaking installed, on its 22 KV transformers, equipment known as "On load tap changers". This device absorbs the fluctuations and enables supply of a steady voltage to consumers.
D.C. TO A.C. CONVERSION
It has already been mentioned that Direct Current electricity was supplied to the Girgaum, Kalbadevi and Fort areas in South Bombay. An appreciable portion of the electricity distributed in 1947 was accounted for by this. An alternating Current supply had many advantages over supply at Direct Current. It is more convenient and cheaper to transmit electricity at Alternative Current through smaller cables at a higher voltage than through larger cables at a lower voltage.
In 1952, there were 25,000 consumers using D.C. A change-over to A.C. meant changing their D.C. appliances where rotation was involved : appliances such as motors, fans, lifts, refrigerators. This presented a major problem. It required a considerable amount of special effort to persuade the D.C. consumers. As an inducement, they were offered partial compensation towards the cost of changing their appliances. The total compensation paid under the scheme was Rs.50 lakhs. But the expenditure was well worthwhile, as it enabled elimination of costly and wasteful equipment used for conversion from A.C. to D.C. As a result of persistent efforts, all the 25,000 consumers, except a hard core of 17, had changed over to A.C., by March 1972.
The Municipal Corporation had a contract with the Bombay Gas Company for gas lamps for street lighting. This contract was to expire in 1962. Until then, there were about 7500 electric lamps and 7000 gas lamps on the roads of Mumbai. The Municipal Corporation then decided to change over completely to electric street lamps and simultaneously to improve the level of illumination. A crash programme was taken in hand by the B.E.S.T. in 1966. When all the gas street lamps had been converted into electric lamps in July 1968, the number of electric street lamps had increased from 7500 to 19000. On 1st July 1968, Bombay wished a sentimental farewell to gas lamps when the Mayor switched on the "Queen’s New Necklace" on Marine Drive. This was a string of the lastest type of high power, coloured-corrected, mercury vapour lamps. Marine Drive is reputed to be the best-lit road in India and one of the best-lit in the world. It is one of the spots a visitor to Mumbai does not like to miss. Now with the introduction of sodium vapour lamps, it is called as ‘Golden Necklace’.
CONTROL OF STREET LIGHTING
Initially, the Undertaking used to control each lamp separately by a switch, by a man going on his rounds every evening and morning to switch them on and off. This system had several disadvantages, especially in times of emergency. To provide central control points, it would be necessary to lay hundreds of kilometre of cables at enormous cost and dig up Mumbai’s roads to lay them. Other methods had therefore to be devised. One method was to install time-switches which automatically control the street lights, depending on the time of sunrise and sunset, but the use of this device is also limited. Another method tried is that which uses photo-electric switches. These contain devices which are sensitive to light. When the natural light on the road falls to a particular level, this device actuates a switch which puts on the street lamp. When the natural light improves to a particular level, the device switches off the lamp.
RIPPLE CONTROL EQUIPMENT
A ripple control scheme for controlling street lamps from one or two central points in the city was then considered. The ripple control equipment is installed at predetermined places in the electric supply network. The equipment sends out high frequency signals over the existing underground cables. These signals are picked up by a special device installed on each lamp or a group of lamps. Thus by pressing a button at central control points one can either switch off or switch on all the street lights in the city. But this scheme was costly and involved import of much of the equipment.; hence it was decided not to consider the scheme.
At present there are over 33,000 street lighting poles and most of them are on automatic control. The automatic control of street lighting poles has got two versions. out of 93 Street Lighting Poles used for remote control for street light poles, 53 are provided with masters/slaves arrangement for efficient controlling Remaining SLP’s are provided with time switch which will switch on/off street lights at the specified timing.
In future, we are exploring the concept of pagers system for quick and efficient operation of street light poles throughout Mumbai.
Sodium-vapour lamps made an appearance in the commercial areas of Mumbai in 1980. To save on fuel and, as an alternative, considering the rising cost of oil, mercury-vapour lamps were chosen for street-lighting. Fluorescent mercury vapour lights went up in large numbers in 1982. In 1990 came "Energy Efficient" lamps and "Energy Fluorescent" lamps followed them in 1993.
And the Electricity department does not work the magic only on the roads of Mumbai; Electricity is provided by the department for various public functions and religious celebrations. As many as twenty-five years ago, the department had made special arrangements for lighting at Girgaum Chowpatty, on the occasion of the immersion of the Ganesh idols. During the years the arrangements have kept improving.
And now the devotees of Lord Ganesh venturing some distance into the sea are helped by strong shafts of light.
REMOTE CONTROL OF RECEIVING STATIONS
Prior to the success in implementing effective remote control of street lights, the Undertaking had started controlling Receiving stations from two control points. There are now 35 receiving stations in the Undertaking where the voltage is stepped down from 110KV to 11 KV, 33 KV to 11 KV, 22 KV to 11KV and 22 KV to 6.6 KV.
On an average, each receiving station supplies power to 50 substations, feeding 21,000 consumers. The efficient operation of the equipment in these Receiving Stations is therefore vital, if the consumer is to receive reliable supply at a steady voltage.
With the help of this equipment we can control the circuit breakers, tap change control gear and the voltage. The Undertaking decided in 1966 to employ the Remote Control Scheme. It was possible to immediately implement this decision, because the control cables required for this purpose had already been laid. The manufacture of the equipment was entrusted to the Indian Telephone Industries at Bangalore. The two main control points are located at the Esplanade Receiving Station and the Kingsway Receiving Station from where all the Receiving Stations are monitored and controlled. The remote Control equipment was installed in 1970 at the ‘Vidyut’ Building near the Esplanade Receiving Station and at Kingsway in 1972.
SCADA FOR RECEIVING STATION CONTROL
The system provided by the Indian Telephone Industries was designed on electro-mechanical relay principle. Due to this it had limitations for the speed of operation. There was no data acquisition also. These factors forced the Undertaking to keep the system to a minimum level.
In 1980 BEST replaced the Supervisory Remote Control system with micro processor based Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA). Additional to SRC System SCADA functions are data acquisition, analysis and report generation.
The communication between the master control and receiving station is through underground communication cables.
To further improve the reliability and quick restoration of supply BEST is going in for microware wireless communication in the years to come. A very-high frequency radio link which was established in 1963 for quick communications is now getting outdated. This is being replaced by microwave system and cellular phones.
With the installation of this equipment, the restoration of supply when a fault develops in a system has become much more efficient and quicker. When a fault occurs in the system, a message is registered on the indicators at the central points. With the help of the links the operator at the control points can direct the field staff to quickly reach the places where the faults have occured and restore supply with the minimum delay.
POWER POOL SCHEME
Shortages are caused when the supply does not keep pace with the demand. But in spite of whatever the Undertaking might do to expand its distribution system well ahead of the demand, it has ultimately to depend on the supply from Tatas. In the early fifties for three consecutive years the monsoon had failed. The low water levels in Tata’s reservoirs, which are a source of power supply to Mumbai, had created a severe power shortage in the area. It became necessary to make alternative arrangements. Many industrial installations in the city had generators of their own to serve as a stand-by. These private owners were asked to operate their generators for their own requirements. The power thus released was utilised to serve the other consumers. This scheme came to be know as the Power Pool Scheme. The Undertaking had taken a lead and played an important role in implementing this Scheme not only in Mumbai city but also in the entire State. Later the installation of more efficient generators in the Railways’ generating station at Chola and a new generating station installed at Trombay by Tatas, considerably improved the position, and in 1961 the Power Pool Scheme was discontinued.
SOME SIGNIFICANT FEATURES
In the old days when plenty of space was available, nobody had perhaps ever heard the words ‘Underground Substation’ and ‘Package Type Substation’. Due to the tremendous increase in the demand for electricity in all parts of the city, the need for Substations has been increasing. The procurement of sites for Substations, especially in the congested areas in the city, presents many serious problems. In the rural areas it is customary to have pole-mounted substations. Owing to the tall buildings around, the erection of such substations is dangerous in the city. Moreover, nobody would like the idea of building such pole-mounted Substations in a city like Mumbai, from the aesthetic point of view. In 1964, on an experimental basis, 5 vault-type transformers were imported. Our experience of them, since their installation in 1967 was not encouraging.
The population of Mumbai has been growing at a fast pace. Every day, hordes of people come to the city and the city accomodates them. Problems too have been growing fast; Slums, without the basic facilities, have been coming up alongside roads. In many cases, the slums have crossed the footpath to the bus-shelter. On the one hand, there is the lovingly nursed dream of a clean and beautiful Mumbai and on the other the depressing reality of a slum. On one side there is the slogan of a green Mumbai and on the other the sad sight of a footpath swallowed up by an ugly slum. When will this stop? The question has to wait for an answer. A voice is sometimes raised against this by the white-collared gentry. Efforts are made now and then to pull down or push back the ramshackle huts. But soon enough they re-appear on the same spots. As time passes, the huts come to be regularised and the Electric Supply branch had to install a separate meter for every hut. Now the paths snaking through the huts have their lighting like the huts themselves. The sensible Mumbaites have accomodated these huts too.
During last some years more and more of Sky scrapers have been going up - and up! The sea has literally been pushed back in several places to make room for some of them. The Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point and the Backbay Reclamation areas are now virtually cement jungles. To provide electricity to these sky scrapers and this ever-widening expanse, is not a simple job. There are the new buildings and the new technology : T.V. Sets, Video and Audio Sets, mainly to entertain and the washing machine and air-conditioning to make life easier. And a variety of machines, small and big, are coming into use on a larger and larger scale. And the computer age is upon us. Naturally, the demand for electricity has rocketed; the demand from sky-scrapers particularly for computers and air-conditioners. The demand for commercial use of electricity, too, has been growing fast.
The height of buildings creates several problems in reaching electricity to them. Therefore, the need for a high pressure electricity set-up. One such set-up required for a Sky scraper is adequate for 400 residential and office buildings.
At present, the Undertaking buys its electricity from the Tata Electric Company. But if it produces its own electricity it will be more convenient, and will also effect a large saving. Its production cost will be less and the consumers demand can be met better. For this purpose the Undertaking is launching its own generation programme in the near future.
The BEST was the first organization in India to supply electricity through underground cables - and that too using the latest technology. Since 1989, the voltage of its receiving stations has been increased from 22KV to 33KV. Not only that, it built at Nariman Point that very year a receiving station of the capacity of 110 KV. In this country such a sub-station is normally outside a building and also far from a residential zone. This one is within a building. And, except for the lower floors, this building is used for private establishment. Most people working every day on the upper floors are probably not aware that below them is a power-station of the capacity of 110 KV. In 1993 the Undertaking also set up a receiving station of 110 KV at Khetwadi. This one also is inside a building.
SOME NOTABLE FEATURES
Switch-gears : It has already been stated that the Undertaking has been in the forefront in using the latest technology in the system of electric supply. At present the Undertaking uses switch-gears of various types and using various technologies. For example, airblast, minimum oil circuit breakers, SF-6 circuit-breakers, Vacuum circuit-breakers and gas-insulated circuit-breakers. These circuit-breakers, being of the latest type, do not need supervision.
As these switch-gears occupy less space, it is possible to set them up where otherwise enough space is not available. Thus, the use of these gears has been quite profitable to the Undertaking.
Cables and their Testing : The BEST has the largest underground cable distribution system. As a matter of fact, compared to the ‘overhead’ system, the method of carrying electricity through underground cable is far more costly. But considering the congested housing and the crowded roads of Mumbai the ‘overhead’ system would be unthinkable. So, although the underground system is costly, from the viewpoint of reliability and safety, it is advantageous.
Later, the Undertaking started using upto-date technology in the cable and jointing system. There was a shortage of the copper used in the cables. The government brought control on the use of copper. Finally, as an alternative, aluminium cables were brought into use. Then came "PVC". For high-power transmission, XLPE cable was brought into use in 1982.
The short-circuit test was employed on the underground cables. The BEST was the leading organization in testing low-pressure cables. Till 1980, high-voltage cables were tested by the "Bridge Method". During 1980 for the testing of high-voltage cables BIECCO surge generators were purchased. And in 1990, the Undertaking got a "testing van". equipped with full apparatus. This van is able to detect the faults in both high-voltage and low-voltage cables. This van was bought although it costs a great deal. Its main advantage is that by removing the faults in an electrical set-up in the minimum time, it enables the undertaking to provide good, dependable and prompt service to the consumers. The undertaking is using four of such "Testing Vans" at present.
Communication and Monitoring Systems : BEST is the first electric supply organization to start VHF communication and that it did in 1960. For the messages to be delivered promptly, the wireless message system was started in 1963. It has now become a simple operation to restore the electric supply by detecting the defects by going to the spot quickly in a mobile van.
For the efficient operations during the year 1967, the area was bifurcated into North and South. In 1991, the department concerned with the operations and maintenance activities was again bifurcated into four zones namely North, Central North, South and Central South. If there was any fault in the machinery, in order to spot it and to take prompt action to correct it, a "supervisory remote control" of the most modern kind was set up.
Meters and Relays : Over the years, changes have been taking place in the electric meters used. The old type of meters did not prove as efficient as they might have. Therefore, in 1994, the electricity section brought into use "electronic meters" and ‘solid state relays’. As recently as 1995, with the help of modern technology and computers, the Undertaking proposes to launch the "remote metering system".
Computerization in the Electricity Supply Departments : The computer is now used in a big way in the BEST Undertaking. Of, course, computerization has assumed importance in all areas of activity. Even then, it must be stated, the BEST was the first organization in the country to issue electricity bills to consumers through the computer and also use it on a large scale. The computerised billing has been going on since 1974 and within a fixed period the bills are delivered to the consumers at their houses, unerringly. In 1988 began the use of the Personal Computer in the department. As a result the work of the Department has been going on even more efficiently. It is easier than ever now to provide prompt service to the consumers. Consumers complaints are settled without delay giving them full satisfaction.
The computer gets you the details you want in a few moments. For example, the consumer’s name, address, meter number, system number, the use to which the electricity is put - whether domestic, commercial or industrial- the pressure, the capacity of the cable etc. You don’t have to go looking for the statistics or record.
The most important stage in the development of computerization of the Electricity Supply Department is the "digitizing" with the topographical map of the entire cable network.
Once the ‘digitizing’ with the topographical map of the cable network is accomplished, there will be complete change from A to Z, one might say, in the methods of operation of the Department.
Research, development and planning have been an integral part of the supply system from the beginning. Studies are continuously undertaken to see how the new advances in the science of electro-technology can be utilised and adapted to meet the constantly increasing needs of the electricity consumer in Mumbai.
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