Can anyone save this white elephant?

Krishna Kumar K.E has written an article in Deccan Chronicle about the topic “Can anyone save this white elephant, KSRTC?”.

A bus that has outlived its utility usually gets condemned to the junkyard. But does this principle apply to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), which runs over 5556 buses throughout the State?

If you pose this question to the daily commuters, they’ll probably tell you that both the KSRTC and its buses have been condemned by them long ago.

So, what is the reason for such extreme dislike? Rude behaviour on the part of drivers and conductors, exorbitant fares and the KSRTC jalopies that are various states of disrepair.

It’s no wonder then that KSRTC has proved to be a white elephant meant for the interests of a few and not the comfort and convenience of the general public. The Corporation, in fact, has already come in for severe criticism.

The criticisms are virtually omnipresent; you’ll find them in blogs, websites, TV channels, newspapers and magazines.

Not that its critics want KSRTC to be scrapped. Instead, they want a transport corporation that ‘runs’ smoothly.

But, it appears, no one is capable of meeting their demands. For, successive governments have tried hard to drag the ana (KSRTC’s pet name) out of the pit of financial crisis where it has found itself.
Given its track record, is it now possible to turn it around?

Former transport minister Mathew T. Thomas says the Corporation’s real crisis comes from non-operation expenditure like pension and loan repayment.

“It incurs a loss of Rs 40 crore every month,” Thomas said. Interestingly, KSRTC’s collection has increased to Rs 115 crore a month. Despite this, pension and loan repayment alone costs the Corporation a recurring expenditure of Rs 51 crore a month! The only solution, according to Thomas, is to generate non-operational income substantially.

However, many other officials disagree with him. They say everything with the corporation would be fine if politicians kept away, leaving its day-to-day management to professionals.

“All that’s needed is a professional management. The KSRTC board should have only qualified professionals and not political representatives,” a top official said.

According to him, computerisation, modern marketing techniques, a well-designed demand-supply chain operational model, schedule optimisation, and, timely replacement of unmotorable buses should be the top priority.

The sceptic official also blamed the Corporation’s trade union model of functioning. “It won’t go along with modern management,” he said.

Further, it’s time social commitments like pension, student concessions and losses emanating from operating buses in non-profitable routes are funded by the government.

“Kerala is the only state where these are met by the Corporation alone,” the official pointed out.

Regular commuters, however, have a different take on the state-of-affairs at KSRTC. Vinod G., a businessman and regular KSRTC commuter, says the Corporation should first begin with improving the scheduling of its buses.

“For instance, it recently cancelled one of its buses in the Kottarakkara-Bangalore route though it was running profitably. Now, there’s only one bus left and it’s overcrowded. They’ve some sort of deal with private bus operators,” alleged Vinod.

The other two profitable routes are Kozhikode and Coimbatore from Kottarakkara.

“Private operators have deployed luxury coaches in these routes whereas KSRTC has only very old buses?” he asked.

Suggestions are many. But, as they say, a wild elephant doesn’t always fit into man-made calculations!

Copyright © 2011 Deccan Chronicle.

 

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