KERALA

KSRTC to reap in operating profits: Pillai

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM MAY 22. The Transport Minister, R. Balakrishna Pillai, has said that the KSRTC, a perennially loss-making public sector undertaking, is well on course to bring in operating profits.

At a `Meet-the-Minister' programme organised by the Thiruvananthapuram Press Club and the Public Relations Department here today, he said the KSRTC was expected to touch a `no loss' position this month. "But for past liabilities, which are being cleared systematically, the KSRTC would have been running on profit now'', he added.

He said when the UDF assumed charge of the Government two years ago, the KSRTC was running up losses to the tune of Rs. 16 crores a month. This gap had been bridged.

The total liabilities two years ago were in the range of Rs. 500 crores, including Rs. 230 crores due to the employees by way of statutory benefits. There was a huge backlog in sanctioning retirement benefits to them. A sum of Rs. 90 crores under this head has been cleared by now.

Similarly, there were huge sums due to tyre, fuel and insurance companies and financial institutions. The KSRTC was steadily inching up the abyss of past liabilities. "Still we have to clear over Rs. 300 crores of old liabilities'', he said.

Mr. Pillai expressed optimism that before the end of the UDF Government's term, the KSRTC would reach level ground.

The per day collections had gone up from Rs. 1.55 crores two years ago to Rs. 1.95 crores now. On some days, it had even touched the level of Rs. 2.25 crores. This collection efficiency was achieved through careful rescheduling of services, introducing mini-bus services in selected routes to check the revenue leak to unauthorised private bus operators and withdrawing some of the chronically loss-making services without causing inconvenience to the commuters. The net distance run by the KSRTC services too had been brought down by nearly 1 lakh kilometres a day, he said.

Mr. Pillai said a hike in the bus fare was far from the Government's thoughts at present. "My desire is to complete my term without another fare increase. With the diesel prices on the decrease, private bus operators too have no case to seek a fare hike,'' he said.

The KSRTC would be taking loans from the HUDCO and the Kerala Transport Development Financial Corporation to replace all buses which had been on the roads for more than nine years. First, it would be the `express', `super-fast' and `fast-passenger' buses that would be replaced. "We are planning to introduce 1,000 new buses this year,'' he said.

New generation `Volvo' buses introduced by the KSRTC were extremely popular with the passengers. Within a year of their introduction, the luxury buses had brought back the investment made on them. The KSRTC would go for more such buses, he said.

Salaries, provident fund, pensions, spare parts, stock details and daily collection data were now being handled on the computer.

This had helped improve administrative efficiency. Ticket-issuing machines too were being introduced for the convenience of the bus conductors. Before the end of this month, 120 such machines would be deployed in Kollam district.

Responding to a question, he said: "I am a strong advocate of the public sector. The KSRTC experience of the last two years shows that any public sector undertaking could be made viable through efficient handling. I had shown it with the KSEB when I was the Electricity Minister last time, though it had earned me nine days' sojourn in the Poojappura Central Jail''.

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