Daily diesel requirement of KSRTC is 4.5 lakh litres for around 5,000 buses

The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) ‘facing its biggest challenge in 45 years,’ is exploring several options to get cheaper diesel in the wake of oil companies deciding to charge market rate for diesel bought by bulk users.

A senior official of the KSRTC told The Hindu on Tuesday that options like using retail outlets and getting supplies through the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) are being looked into. These options, as of now, look untenable, the official said.

The first thing he points to is the enormity of the operations of the KSRTC, which has around 5,000 buses that travel a total of more than 15 lakh kms a day. The daily diesel requirement is nearly 4.5 lakh litres. Using the current fuel outlets in cities like Kochi may prove impractical.

Besides, he said that using retail outlets involved a new chain of operations altogether for the KSRTC. The method for making payments and possibilities of corrupt practices are some of the other problems.

Possibilities of technology induction in securing fuel from retail outlets like smart cards for payments may be explored given that a particular KSRTC bus is not looked after permanently or on a long-term basis by the same driver-conductor pair.

Some of the trade union leaders have suggested that the KSRTC could rely on retail outlets even as petroleum dealers in the State have come out in support of the KSRTC. The retailers have said they could serve KSRTC buses provided the KSRTC made cash payments.

A spokesman for the KSRT Employees’ Association, affiliated to the CITU, said that trade unions had not looked at the issue of securing fuel through retail outlets but would convene soon to look at this possibility as well as to consider the crisis on hand.

“The crisis facing the KSRTC needs to be addressed first”, said an empanelled employee, who faces the threat of losing his job if the KSRTC slashes the number of schedules.

He concedes that it will initially be difficult for the driver and conductor of a KSRTC bus to ensure proper fuel supply from retail outlets. However, this is the only way to steer the Corporation out of trouble temporarily, he said.

The other option is to rely on Supplyco for fuel supplies. The KSRTC official said that the retail chain had only a limited number of fuel outlets. A senior official of Supplyco said that they had had only 14 fuel outlets of which six were in Thiruvananthapuram. It has no outlets in Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Wayanad, Palakkad and Kannur districts.

The Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said that Supplyco was ready to give diesel to the KSRTC provided it made cash payments.

A KSRTC official said that even if supplies were secured through the State-owned retailer, it would be a difficult proposition to be worked out as a solution with Indian Oil Corporation owning all diesel pumps in KSRTC depots across Kerala.

The decision by the oil companies implies that bulk users like KSRTC will pay Rs. 11.53 per litre more than retail consumers like private buses, an additional daily burden of nearly Rs. 50 lakh on the KSRTC. The rise in diesel cost means that the nearly half-century-old transport corporation is out of the competition in the State.

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