The loss-making Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has plunged into a crisis following the Supreme Court ruling against providing subsidised diesel to bulk consumers of public utility services such as Railways and State transport corporations.
The KSRTC will now have to pay Rs.71.25 for a litre of diesel instead of Rs.53.85. The public utility service, which has a revenue-expenditure deficit of Rs.90 crore monthly, will have to incur an additional expense of Rs.22.60 crore every month in the wake of the order, official sources told The Hindu on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court, striking down an order of the Kerala High Court, has ruled that there is no need for providing fuel at subsidised rates and attributed the KSRTC’s loss to mismanagement. The ruling has come as a shock to the management and the government.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has convened a meeting of oil companies on Wednesday to keep the KSRTC afloat. Minister for Transport and Power Arayadan Mohammed says the Cabinet will discuss the issue, but rules out any hike in bus fares, as it will benefit private buses that operate 73 per cent of the buses.
Official sources say the oil companies are yet to bill the KSRTC as per the bulk consumer tag. The only solution is to go as per the recommendation of a panel headed by former Chief Secretary Jose Cyriac: sourcing diesel at subsidised rates from retail outlets of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) or from retail outlets operated or owned by oil companies.
Supplyco has just 17 retail outlets in the State, while the Indian Oil Corporation has 28 retail outlets, either operated or owned by it. As retail outlets in the city are small, many lack room to accommodate KSRTC buses. Moreover, only six to seven buses can be fuelled an hour, causing traffic blocks. Filling diesel in buses at night and after schedules are wound up will require additional staff. The KSRTC needs 4.3 lakh litres of diesel daily.
KSRTC Chairman and Managing Director K.G. Mohanlal says the corporation has not cancelled any schedules in the State. “We have no plans to cancel the schedules. Amidst the crisis, we are catering to the needs of the commuters during Onam,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Transport Democratic Federation has urged the government to intervene to save the KSRTC from the present crisis. TDF president Thampanoor Ravi says a practical approach is needed to save the corporation and the ordinary people who depend on the fleet for commuting.