PUDUCHERRY: A financial crunch forced Puducherry Agriculture Minister R Kamalakannan to travel by bus from Karaikal to Puducherry to participate in the cabinet meeting scheduled on Friday evening after the government cooperative petrol bunk refused diesel for his official car.
Kamalakannan, who hails from Karaikal, was scheduled to travel on Friday morning by his official car. But when his car went to fill up diesel from the petrol bunk of government cooperative Amudhasurabhi on the ECR at Lawspet last evening, it was refused. This was because Amudhasurabhi has decided against providing diesel to government vehicles from January 2 till pending dues are cleared by the respective departments on the orders of its Managing Director.
A total of Rs 2.5 crore is pending from government departments for petrol and diesel supplied to government vehicles. The office of the council of ministers alone has dues of Rs 50 lakh pending for the last four months, Jothiraj, Managing Director, Amudhasurabhi told Express. Other dues for general stores run by Amudhasurabhi amounting to Rs 5.32 crore are yet to be settled. The salaries of employees could not be paid for five months as it has a meagre capital, he said.
When the Agriculture Minister's office tried to contact the MD and other senior officials of the cooperative last evening, they were not reachable since they had switched off their mobile phones, sources in the minister's office said. As the car could not get diesel to reach Karaikal, Kamalakannan took the 12.45 pm Puducherry Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) bus to reach Puducherry by 3.45 pm.
Speaking to Express over the phone from the bus, Kamalakannan said that it was a routine problem due to a chain of issues. "Being a public representative, I want to make it clear that I am prepared to travel by bus whenever the necessity arises to fulfil my commitments," said Kamalakannan.
Chief Minister V Narayanasamy who uses his own car but gets diesel from the government cooperative is managing with the fuel in the tank as are other ministers. Health minister Malladi Krishna Rao from Yanam said he has used his own money to fill diesel in his official vehicle.
Meanwhile, ambulances of govt hospitals are facing difficulties in getting diesel, though the department has no pending dues. Health Secretary Prashant Kumar Panda and Deputy Director, Public Health, G Ragunathan called on the Health Minister to resolve the problem. The Health Minister has volunteered to give Rs 3 lakh from his own fund to operate the ambulances till the issue is resolved.
The cooperative is also in trouble as it borrowed more than Rs 30 crore from Indian Bank and the Puducherry Power Corporation to provide free mixers and grinders to all residents during the tenure of the previous government some four years back but is yet to repay it.
Asked for his response, Welfare and Cooperative minister M Kandasamy cited the dues left behind by the previous NR Congress government as well as overstaffing in the cooperative and Lt Governor Kiran Bedi for stopping grants to all PSUs and cooperatives.