Gujarat unpaid bill for hiring state buses spirals in 3 yrs

In response, the transport department stated that “21,964 ST buses were assigned for government programmes in 2020-21, 6,898 in 2021-22, and 38,868 buses in 2022-23.”
Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | EPS)
Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | EPS)

AHMEDABAD:  Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) buses, a public transport fleet, were used to ferry people to events attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel over a three-year period. However, data shows the government has failed to pay the GSRTC’s rent of Rs 22.16 crore for that period. Besides, the number of buses used in government programmes is growing: it increased from 122 in 2020-21 to 31,211 in 2022-23.

In response to a question raised by Jignesh Mevani, a Congress MLA from Vadgam, in the Gujarat Assembly on September 14, the transport department stated that a total of 34,868 buses were allocated for the Prime Minister and Chief Minister’s events in the last three years, with 122 buses allocated in 2020-21 and 3,535 allocated in 2021-22. In 2022-23, 31,211 state transport buses were allocated.

The state government informed the Assembly that in the year 2020-21, Rs 14.27 lakh were paid as rent for the buses, while in the year 2021-22, Rs 8.21 crore were paid as rent, but Rs 74.43 lakh remained unpaid as rent. In 2022-23, the government paid Rs 86.crore as rent for using the buses while Rs 21.41 crore remained unpaid.

While responding in the Assembly to the question on overdue fares of the buses, the transport department said that “proceedings for the recovery of dues are in progress with the departments concerned.” More details emerged in a query posed by Gujarat Congress MLA Kanti Kharadi. He asked the transport department as to how many buses were rented to carry people to state government programmes over the last three years and how much rent was outstanding. In response, the transport department stated that “21,964 ST buses were assigned for government programmes in 2020-21, 6,898 in 2021-22, and 38,868 buses in 2022-23.”

The government said that in the year 2020-21, about Rs 26 crore were paid as ST bus fare and nearly 53 lakh remained unpaid in the year 2021-22. In 2022-23, nearly Rs 39 crore are yet to be paid. Kharadi told this newspaper that the government wasted people’s money on political programmes without paying the rent, which is cheating with people.

“State transport buses are meant for transporting rural people, not to gather crowds for government events. The rural transport is hit when the government hires ST buses on a big scale,” said Kharadi. GSRTC operates within the state of Gujarat, India and neighboring states. It has a fleet of 8,703 buses. The accumulated losses of State PSUs in Gujarat stood at Rs 30,400 crore.

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