The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) is mulling a proposal to source diesel in bulk from retail outlets, thus saving Rs 18 crore per month.
The move is likely to reduce the agency’s monthly loss from about Rs 95 crore to Rs 77 crore. The quantum of loss skyrocketed after the KSRTC was tagged as a bulk purchaser of diesel, following which it is now paying about Rs 14 more per litre of diesel. The agency’s 4,000 buses require 3.50 lakh litres of diesel every day, for which it is paying about Rs 60 lakh extra per day than the retail price.
High-ranking officials in the agency said that the plan is to divert a few fuel lorries of dealers to fuel stations in KSRTC depots, after paying Re 1 per litre as commission to the dealer concerned.
“This is among the best options possible now and is under serious consideration,” said a senior official in the Transport Department. Another option is to fill diesel from retail fuel outlets. This involves additional expenditure since personnel will have to be posted at each outlet to ensure accountability. It will also throw into disarray the shift system and the operating schedule of buses, he said.
A committee headed by Chief Secretary Jose Cyriac was asked to submit a report on how to tide over the KSRTC’s worsening crisis. While refusing to comment on the details, Mr Cyriac said that some recommendations have been made. “The State Cabinet must decide on the issue.” On whether the recommendations cover issues like the unscientific trip scheduling and other administrative inefficiencies of the RTC, he said that reference has been made to a few peripheral issues too.
The RTC’s Chief Traffic Manager, who is in-charge executive director (operations) K.M. Irshad said that the proposal to procure diesel in bulk from fuel dealers is a feasible one. To a question on the steps the agency is taking to increase the fuel efficiency of buses, he said that drivers are being trained on good driving habits. The KSRTC’s fleet is among the least fuel efficient of RTCs in the country. The average fuel efficiency is an abysmal 4.20 km per litre, while buses of neighbouring RTCs have it in the range of 5 to 5.50 km per litre.
The State government has not responded to the KSRTC’s request for a waiver of the 19.8 per cent sales tax that goes to the State’s coffers for every litre of diesel purchased. This alone works out to about Rs 13 per litre of diesel. The Kerala State Petroleum Traders’ Association has, meanwhile, opposed the RTC’s proposed move. While stating that it is willing to provide diesel to KSRTC buses from retail outlets, its joint secretary R. Sabarinath said that diversion of fuel from retail outlets is against rules.
He suggested that details like the quantum of diesel filled in each bus be entered in a log book maintained for the purpose. “This would also enable the assessment of their fuel efficiency. RTC officials can keep tabs of the fuel being filled by establishing online link with closed circuit TV cameras in outlets,” Mr Sabarinath said. He reminded that State-run buses in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu began re-fuelling from retail outlets, including from Kerala.