Diesel subsidy withdrawal drives KSRTC to doom

  • Krishnadas Rajagopal
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The withdrawal of diesel subsidy has left a deep gash in the pockets of the already-stumbling Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) in the Kozhikode zone.

Records with the zonal office show that many scheduled trips cannot even recover the cost of diesel, leave alone pay the wages of drivers and conductors.

“There are 173 scheduled bus services in the zone comprising Kozhikode, Wayanad and Kannur districts, which cause a loss of Rs.7,500 each. Each scheduled trip is of 300 km,” V.S. Saju, Zonal Officer, Kozhikode, said.

The KSRTC runs 690 scheduled runs a day in north Kerala. As many as 870 of its buses ply 2.5 lakh km in the region.

The 48-hour strike has ensured that the corporation has lost approximately Rs.1.4 crore — Rs. 70 lakh a day — in daily collections in the zone.

Mr. Saju said the withdrawal of the diesel subsidy had made it more difficult to keep the services afloat for a corporation largely dependent on funds from the State government.

“From Saturday [after the latest increase in the diesel price], we have been paying Rs.11.20 more than private bus operators for buying diesel at the market rate,” he said.

“We require 7,000 litres a day for 72 buses, from super deluxe to ordinary, operating from the Kozhikode depot. The increase in the diesel price has put us at a crossroads. We are definitely ‘bulk consumers,’ but every drop of diesel we buy is consumed for public purpose. The Centre should exempt us from this withdrawal of subsidy,” he said.

The zonal office data show that a steady increase in diesel prices is driving the corporation to a corner.

“From January 18 till date, the cost of diesel has increased by Rs.13 a litre. So far, we have managed here. Expenses and operational costs have increased, though revenue inflow, even in February, has been maintained, largely because the State government has been making periodic cash allotments to the Indian Oil Corporation for diesel,” Mr. Saju said.

Though the State government had offered financial support of Rs.14 crore for two months to help the corporation deal with the crisis, KSRTC Employees Association district unit secretary P.A. Jojo said the corporation had not received that amount yet.

Long-term solution

“If the government is not coming forward with a long-term solution, the largest and one of the most important public-sector enterprises of the State government will soon meet with its end,” Mr. Jojo said recently.

New complex

Work on the Rs. 53-crore KSRTC station and shopping complex in Kozhikode is dragging on. It had prompted A Pradeep Kumar, MLA, to ask Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed for an explanation in the Legislative Assembly on December 18, 2012. In his reply, Mr. Mohammed said 95 per cent of the work was over. Structural and electrical works were progressing and finishing touches were on.

The Minister had given an assurance that the work would be completed by March 31, 2013.

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