THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Ajaykumar, a KSRTC driver from Kaniyapuram depot met with an accident eight months ago at Tiruvalla while on duty. He suffered multiple fractures on his right leg after a container lorry hit the bus he was driving. Despite continuous treatment, he is yet to fully recover. To make matter worse, the corporation has neither reimbursed his medical bill nor paid the salary for the past eight months. All this time, he had to shell out around Rs 4 lakh on treatment.
“I haven’t received salary even for a month, though employees are entitled to get a month’s paid leave in such cases. The corporation didn’t even sanction my medical reimbursement, which comes to around `4 lakh,” said Ajaykumar, who has been working in KSRTC for the past 11 years. He can’t take up ‘other duty’ after the former KSRTC managing director scrapped the post. Not just Ajaykumar, but several KSRTC employees are struggling to get their dues, including medical reimbursement and other benefits. Another driver from the Kaniyapuram depot who met with an accident 10 years ago near the Chakka bypass is yet to receive his medical bill reimbursed.
He suffered severe injuries to his intestine and was admitted to the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College. “I was in the ICU for nine days. I had to sell my property to meet the treatment expenses,” he said.
Two months after the accident, the corporation allowed him to work as a unit officer in the store under the ‘other duty’ category. But after the ‘other duty’ period got expired, he had to rejoin as a driver since he was the sole breadwinner of the family.
After working for a few months, his earlier injuries acted up, forcing him to go on leave for surgery. “However, none of the leave I applied was sanctioned as medical leave, due to which I was denied salary during the treatment period,” said the staffer, who now has a debt of Rs 20 lakh. Kerala State Transport Employees’ Union president Pradeep Sreedhar said the corporation has stopped reimbursement medical expenses of all the employees for the past few years due to financial crisis.
“The increase in accidents is also affecting the financial prospects of the corporation, with the compensation paid to accident victims standing at a whopping Rs 3 crore in two years,” said Pradeep.
What the rule says
As per rule if a KSRTC employee gets injured while on duty, the employees’ depot unit officer is responsible to permit him a paid leave for 30 days and if necessary, the employee can also avail the paid leave for 90 days after getting sanction from the chief office.
‘Financial crisis to blame’
K M Sree Kumar, executive director (administration), KSRTC, said the corporation has not reimbursed employees medical expenses for over a year due to financial crisis. “KSRTC can reimburse medical expenses up to `3 lakh. Due to the current financial burden, many applications have been pending for the past one-and-a-half years.
All other applications submitted before the period have been sanctioned. The compensation paid to KSRTC staff for accident cases and other medical treatments, including cancer, comes to around Rs 5.5 crore per year,” said Sree Kumar. Around 150 accidents involving KSRTC buses get registered a year, he said.
“Though there is a delay in approving the reimbursement amount, KSRTC sanctions paid leave of the staff as per the rule,” he said.