NASHIK: In a bid to reduce expenditure on its daily operations, the debt-ridden Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has decided to hire 500 ordinary buses from private bus operators in the state. A resolution on hiring buses to ferry passengers was presented by the MSRTC transport department during a board of directors’ meeting, which was approved subsequently after a discussion.
A tender to select the private operator will be floated soon, said officials. The move is, however, being criticised by unions with many terming it as a step towards “privatisation” of MSRTC. Sources said 500 ordinary buses (non-AC and non-luxurious) would be taken on rent from private operators. The buses will be run by the operator’s drivers and only conductors from MSRTC will be present to issue tickets.
The operators would be responsible for the maintenance of the buses and other related expenditure. “Within a month or two, a tender will be floated. An in-detail study will be conducted before floating the tender, during which details like duration, cost and region of operation will be decided,” said an official, adding that the decision has been taken to reduce the cost of daily operation of MSRTC fleet. MSRTC has accrued losses of Rs 6,400 crore from April 2020 till May 2021 after its inter-district operations were hit by the lockdown and restrictions on movement.
The corporation, which runs inter as well as intra district public transport services, had been facing a cash crunch before the lockdown too, with a debt burden of over Rs 3,500 crore. The shutting down of services during the lockdowns last year and this year has seen this shoot up to Rs 9,500 crore. Recently, the state government had sanctioned a relief package of Rs 600 crore to MSRTC to clear salaries of its employees. “As the life span of more than 5,000 vehicles in its 19,000 fleet has come to an end, the corporation is in dire need of new vehicles.
The loss of thousands of crores and the accumulated income during lockdown has made it impossible to buy new vehicles and hence, this decision has been taken,” said another official. By deciding to hire private buses, MSRTC has followed the path of Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, which has taken 30 per cent of its vehicles on rent. It is the only transport corporation in the country that is still profitable.