The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has become synonymous with losses. The old red buses, though now in a variety of hues of green, blue and white, have always been in the red. No serious effort has ever been made to steer them through a different route that could get them back to the pink of health.

Last week when a stop-gap arrangement of Rs 28 crore was made by the state government in the wake of the diesel crisis, it may have helped the corporation to stay afloat temporarily. Oil companies which got the right to fix diesel prices, tagged KSRTC as a bulk consumer. This saw the corporation having to pay a heavy price for diesel — around Rs 11 more per a litre.


This made diesel dealers offer KSRTC diesel at the market price. But adamancy prevailed and then came the temporary government relief. However, authorities seem to be aware that harsh decisions will have to be taken. Initiatives in this direction have begun. A major proposal from the corporation is to allow small depots to buy diesel directly from the oil marketing companies and to examine the prospect of conversion to compressed natural gas (CNG).

Payment for direct purchase of diesel can be in the name of unit officers instead of the managing director, as is being done now.

By doing so, KSRTC may be exempted from the group of bulk consumers. The crisis was triggered after the oil marketing companies withdrew subsidies to bulk consumers who are now needed to dole out an extra Rs 11.43 per litre. While diesel is available outside at Rs 49 per litre, the corporation is paying Rs 60.25 a litre. This results in an additional monthly financial burden of Rs 15 crore, which would be even higher than the rs 60-crore average monthly loss being incurred now.

“This is possible for units which use an average of 4,000 litres daily. For other depots, we’re considering ways to get the fuel from retail outlets. But there are hurdles, like malpractices by employees, which need to be addressed through steps like setting up flow meters, CCTV cameras and the like,” a top official said.

Executive director (operations) K.M. Irshad says KSRTC had submitted its proposals, which include drastic cuts of loss-making services and shifting to CNG mode. These were made before a chief secretary-level committee appointed by the government.

“The committee would weigh each of the options and come out with a set of recommendations in two months,” he said.

The CNG option has found support from various quarters, even at the bureaucratic level. Biju Prabhakar, IAS, now serving as the Food Safety Commissioner, has been asking for CNG pumps at bus stations.

“Pilferage is common even now and KSRTC has not estimated the losses on account of this. The environmental pollution from diesel engines, the hazardous waste generated by the buses, the high maintenance and replacement costs of engines are issues which needs to be addressed.

Delhi Transport Corporation had already switched from diesel to CNG. “The proposal is to convert all the buses into CNG and set up CNG filling stations by the side of the road, so that KSRTC as well as other vehicle owners can avail of the facility. This can be done as a revenue sharing model and also put an end to pilferage, as CNG cannot be transported in cans and sold elsewhere,” the officer said.

Meanwhile, there are also demands that the employees should be made accountable for operational costs like mileage and maintenance.

Source: Deccan Chronicle