The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation that has as its insignia two black elephants has truly turned a white elephant over the years. The Supreme Court ruling on Monday that no diesel subsidy be made available to the utility is yet another in a slew of ailments to have infected the corporation over the years. True, it has climbed out of the hole, by getting the civil supplies department to temporarily take over 67 refueling depots now run by the utility with the approval of the OMCs, subject to central government approval. Clearly, it is time the state government looked beyond quick fix solutions and addressed the real problems plaguing the utility.
Consider some of the management blips that have dogged KSRTC till date: a 35,000-strong workforce and another 9,000 empanelled workers to man 5,000 buses. Add to that over 30,000 pensioners and the picture of a massive wage bill accounting for nearly two-thirds of the fixed cost or `100 crore a month to run the state buses that cover 14 lakh km a day. KSRTC’s losses stand at around `2,500 crore. In Kerala, the manpower productivity is 38km per employee while it is 76km in Tamil Nadu, 69km in Karnataka and 64km in Andhra Pradesh.
Trade unions have had a major say in crippling KSRTC by overloading it with such manpower flab that an arterial thrombosis is on the cards, unless the government is bold enough to go in for immediate surgical invention. By no means is trade unionism in this context synonymous with the Left but the damage has been wreaked by political heavyweights from Congress and its ally who have used KSRTC to dole out jobs to their sidekicks. Surely, professionalism has to take precedence over cronyism while running the corporation. A beginning can be made by getting due diligence done on KSRTC and solutions sought by leveraging its assets, mostly its pricey land banks instead of lamenting on its liabilities.