Withdrawal of fuel subsidy may force it to cut services
In northern districts of the State where the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operates services to interior and high-terrain rural areas, the Supreme Court’s fiat to withdraw subsidised diesel may end the public utility’s very role as an “essential service provider” in these parts.
KSRTC operates 160 bus services to far-flung areas in Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode districts. None of these services give financial returns of even up to Rs. 7,000 a day.
A majority of these services involve trips extending up to 300 km.
Now, the apex court decision, which comes at a time when fuel price is skyrocketing, would compel the public corporation to make the hard choice between profit and public service in these routes which are not financially viable.
“In these geographically tough routes, KSRTC acts purely as a service provider. Our services are not profit-based, our operations are solely meant as an essential service to the large sections of public living in these interior rural areas in this region. Now we are forced into a situation in which either profit or public service has to be sacrificed,” V.S. Saju, Zonal Manager, Kozhikode, said.
He said the operational cost is also high for buses plying these demanding routes through high-range areas with buses requiring maintenance every three to four months.
“These are routes where night services are operated for just two or three passengers. But in the mornings, in the same routes, buses are packed with people coming to the city from rural parts. During Onam, KSRTC was the hero in places like Kakkadampoyil, Kasaragod, Thiruvambady, Payyanur and Mananthavady,” Mr. Saju said.
As per official records, the public corporation consumes 60,000 litres of diesel every day operating in the northern region. It has a total 815 bus services scheduled everyday of which at least 715 are effective. The withdrawal of subsidy would cost the public utility a 12 per cent increase in fuel expenditure.
Fuel is supplied for services in north Kerala from nine pumps situated on land belonging to KSRTC at Kasaragod, Kanhangad, Payyanur, Thalassery, Kannur, Thamarassery, Bathery, Kalpetta and Mananthavady. At these fuel stations, KSRTC has tie-ups with Hindustan Petroleum and Indian Oil Corporation, which supply the diesel.
Besides, a monthly quota of 4,000 litres of diesel is supplied via the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation.
The Road Transport Corporation operates 65 buses in Kalpetta, 120 in Kannur, 98 in Kasaragod, 57 in Kanhangad, 86 in Mananthavady, 86 in Payyannur, 100 in Sulthan Bathery, 65 in Thamarassery, 59 in Thalassery, 47 in Thottilpalam, 25 in Thiruvambady and 25 in Vadakara in the region.
Officials however say there will be no cut in the prevailing bus services as of now. But many doubt for how long.