Km scheme: Passengers in Punjab bear the brunt as PRTC contractual employees go on strike
Passengers across the state bore the brunt as contractual staff of the Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) proceeded on a strike on Thursday demanding immediate rollback of allowing more private buses to ply under its ‘kilometre scheme’.
Patiala/Bathinda: Passengers across the state bore the brunt as contractual staff of the Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) proceeded on a strike on Thursday demanding immediate rollback of allowing more private buses to ply under its ‘kilometre scheme’.
Under the ‘kilometre scheme’, introduced in 1998 in Punjab, private players have to bear the cost of new bus and driver, and the PRTC pays the private player on the basis of per-kilometre.
The contractual staff staged gate rallies and blocked exit and entry points of the bus stands.
The PRTC has decided to add 219 buses to its existing fleet under the Kilometre scheme in a phased manner.
The contractual employees said it was a step towards privatising the PRTC.
Officials said usually the term of each bus — introduced under the scheme — is around six years, but that can be extended further. The salary of the driver is given by the private player. To avoid private player cartels under the scheme, each individual is allowed to introduce only two buses, said officials.
Justifying the scheme, PRTC officials said that they don’t have enough money to purchase new buses and the ‘kilometre scheme’ is financially viable. As per the latest agreement, private players will get ₹8.58 per kilometre from the PRTC.
“This scheme is running for decades now. The latest move to introduce 219 buses came after more than one year of paperwork. The move is to replace already existing buses under the Kilometre scheme. The move will help to function the PRTC smoothly,” said a senior official of the PRTC, who wished not to be named.
Harkesh Kumar, a member of the PRTC and PUNBUS Contractor Worker Union, said: “Instead of strengthening the PRTC, the government is privatising it. We strongly condemn the government’s move to introduce and promote the kilometre scheme.”
Shamsher Singh Gill, secretary, PRTC and PUNBUS Contractor Worker Union, said that they would hold a protest outside the residence of PRTC chairman on Friday.
PRTC officials have also arranged a meeting of protesters with the Punjab transport Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar on December 6, but the employees are adamant on their demand and continue their protest.
Unaware of the strike call, passengers faced inconvenience in several parts of the region. “I had to wait for a state-owned bus for more than half an hour but did not find the bus,” said a woman at Bathinda bus stand who was headed for Rajpura in Patiala to attend a wedding function.
Later in the evening, the PRTC contratual employees announced to postpone their strike till December 6 following a written assurance by the corporation to keep the newly inducted two buses off the road until their (employees) meeting with the transport minister on December 6.