Ignored by Govt, SRTC loses wheels
‘Corp Share Declines To 3%, Plan Allocation Never Crossed ` 5 Cr’
Srinagar, Oct 23: From a frontline service provider in Jammu and Kashmir a few decades ago, State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) is struggling for survival with its share in transport sector falling to dismal less than three percent.
Not only has the once booming Corporation lost its wheels the “flawed planning” is pushing it off the road.
Established in June, 1948, as Government Transport Undertaking with a 50-truck fleet, it was converted into JKSRTC in September 1976. The aim was to provide cheap transport service, said an official.
In 80’s the Corporation had more than 60 per cent share in the transport sector and almost 90 per cent of its fleet was operational. It had a proud fleet of more than 1300 vehicles and the employees’ strength was above 6000, Chairman SRTC Workers Association, Shakeel Ahmad Kuchay told Greater Kashmir.
More than 100 SRTC buses would ply daily on city roads and a small fleet of double-decker bus would run continuously to places adjoining Mughal gardens including Nishat, Shalimar, on the city outskirts, and Pampore at Srinagar-Jammu highway.
“The double-decker service was introduced to Kashmir only after Mumbai (then Bombay),” officials said.
Another 130 vehicles would ply to different tourist places in Kashmir for sightseeing on daily basis.
Officials said since Srinagar-Jammu Highway is a “nationalized route” the busses carrying tourist and people from outside states to Kashmir would stop at Jammu and from there onwards SRTC would be pressed into service.
It would carry people and tourists to their respective destinations in the Valley. The move had a double advantage. Not only would the Corporation benefit from it financially but the local transporters would too make fortunes out of it.
The Corporation had units and depots in almost all districts and 30 to 40 vehicles would regularly ply on inter-district and intra-district routes.
However, lack of proper planning vis-a-vis expansion of the sector and to meet growing competition started pushing the corporation towards the edge.
Many reasons are responsible for it, officials argue. The plan allocation to the Corporation continues to be Rs five crore annually for last 20 years at a time when market has skyrocketed. The State Transport Corporation of neighboring Himachal Pradesh had got Rs 41 crore plan allocations for this fiscal, said an official.
At present SRTC has a fleet of 1008 vehicles out of which more than 700 vehicles are already over-aged and another 100 vehicles are to be auctioned, he said. It has another fleet of 300 trucks which has turned “obsolete.” “More than 71 percent of SRTC vehicles are over-aged,” he added.
While on one hand the fleet either kept turning over-aged or landed into junkyard for want of repairs no proper policy was adapted to replace it.
Nowadays the Corporation is struggling to generate revenue which could suffice its monthly salary bill and other financial requirements.
Though Srinagar-Jammu Highway continues to be a “nationalized route” there is no stop to growing transport rush to Kashmir from outside states.
Following protests by the SRTC employees a 3-member committee was tasked to recommend for its revival in 2008.
In its report the committee attributed SRTC’s decline to number of factors while pointing fingers towards the government. Around 117 vehicles were destroyed in incidents of violence in ’90s and the situation during the era had a “lethal” effect on JKSRTC, the report highlighted.
More than 1466 vehicles, the report said, were auctioned since 1990 of which only 886 were replaced. “The ratio of over-aged fleet has increased to 69 per cent as against all-India average of 22 per cent.”
Questioning government policy the report observes that Rs 22.57 crores and Rs 6.73 crores were provided by it as plan assistance for acquisition of fleet during the 9th and 10th five year plans respectively but it did not meet requirements of JKSRTC. “As a result the liabilities of SRTC kept increasing,” the 3-member panel observed.
“The employee productivity in terms of number of kilometers traveled by an employee per day was as low as 17.12 in JK while as for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the two states with successful transport corporations, the distance covered is 57 kms and 75.5 kms,” the report highlights.
The boom in the private transport sector too hit SRTC’s cause. Under Motor Vehicles Act, inter-state highways are notified exclusively for SRTC vehicles but route permits have been issued to private operators. “Permission to private tour operators on routes notified for the SRTC, unequal competition on inter-district and intra-district routes has contributed significantly to decline in its performance,” the committee highlighted.
No SRTC vehicle is seen plying on city routes expect for special occasions besides private transport is running on routes notified for SRTC.
Even Jammu-Srinagar and Jammu-Ladakh highway has more private operators than SRTC. “Less than 40 corporation vehicles ply on the Jammu-Srinagar and Jammu-Ladakh highway every day while the inter district service has almost been winded up in Kashmir,” officials said.
Sources said in 2008-09 government signed Voluntary Retirement Scheme and Golden Handshake pact with the SRTC employees. “Almost 900 employees retired under the program. The law says that once an employee volunteers for the retirement his/her post gets abolished. However more than 600 persons have been illegally appointed as replacement,” sources said.
In 2009 the SRTC employees again came on roads demanding their pending issues be settled. It forced government to enter into a 20-point agreement with them following which the annual budgetary allowance to SRTC was made into need based grant in aid.
“As a result, we got Rs 30 crore as grant in aid as against Rs 11 crore annual budgetary support,” senior employees of the Corporation said. Though the grant in aid continues but employees’ association argues it is not sufficient.
Under the pact the government also became the guarantor to Rs 30 crore loan SRTC had taken from JK Bank to manage the seven month’s salary bill.
A new committee headed by the then Chief Secretary, under the pact, had recommended that the corporation should be developed on lines of its Himachal Pradesh counterpart. A formal order was issued by the government to this effect but it is yet to see light of day.
Officials said a fleet of 150 new buses given to SRTC in 2010 under centrally funded National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM) Programme though helped it to survive extinction, the problem is not over yet.
The employees have now again threatened to come on the streets to seek address to their demands. They are holding continuous protests from September 24 demanding release of 6th pay commission arrears.
MD SRTC JS Tandon said the Corporation suffered because of lack of proper attention since 1976.
“But now the Corporation is in the revival mode and the annual earnings have gone up from Rs 36 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 41 crore during first two quarters of the current year,” said Tandon.
He said they have also commercialized some SRTC assets and these are earning good revenue.
He said the corporation had purchased some new vehicles during this year and the process will continue. “In next five years we can buy either 25 buses or 35 trucks given the plan allocations. The financial support has to be increased. Government is responding positively,” Tandon said.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 23 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 24 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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