Diesel price hike crushes state bus corp in Kerala
Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre's decision to allow oil companies to deregulate diesel prices for bulk purchasers has dealt a blow to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation forcing the loss-making public utility to drastically cut its services across the state.
Finding it difficult to operate the entire existing schedules, the KSRTC management has decided to seek the Government's nod for stopping many more services in the "unviable routes."
According to KSRTC sources, this would mean that 1000 to 1500 services would be stopped, at least for the time being.
The state cabinet is likely to take stock of the situation when it meets tomorrow as cutting such a large number of services is a "sensitive issue" in view of the hardship it would cause to the common people, Government sources said.
Though Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had already written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the need to reconsider the decision to deregulate diesel prices for bulk users, the Centre is yet to respond to the state's plea.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Chandy had sought that public utility services like Railways and State Road Transport Corporations be exempted from the purview of the pricing policy if it was difficult to totally withdraw the decision to deregulate the diesel price.
According to sources in KSRTC, the current round of hike in diesel price for bulk users would cast an additional burden of Rs 180 crore on it by modest estimate, forcing it to choose between hard options like cutting down services or effecting a steep fare hike.
In the present circumstances, it would be totally unviable for the corporation to run services in routes which would not yield a minimum collection of Rs 10,000 a day, sources said.
Commuters in the state capital, where the public depend heavily on KSRTC for short-distance travels, have already started complaining about service cuts.
Vijayan Potti, a temple priest who has to come to the city twice a day from his home at Vellayani on the outskirts, said he had to wait for over an hour this morning to catch his early morning bus to the city.
"Four or five buses used to pass by my stop between 5 am and 7 am until the other day. But now, the number has come down to one or two," Potti said.