Uttarakhand Roadways in a mess, govt seek the help of consultant
Fifteen years after it was incorporated, the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation is still struggling to come out of the quagmire of financial losses
Fifteen years after it was incorporated, the Uttarakhand Transport Corporation (UTC) is still struggling to come out of the quagmire of financial losses. If anything, it has actually managed to drive itself deeper in the quagmire.
The corporation registered ₹300 crore in losses in the last financial year (2017-18), up nearly ₹250 crore from the ₹50-crore loss that it had shown in the financial year 2003-04.
A perplexed state government is now seeking ways to turn the UTC into a profit-making entity. Earlier this week, chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh chaired a meeting with UTC board where it was suggested to hire a consultancy firm.
“The changes could be implemented (in the UTC’s functioning) as per the suggestions of (the consultancy firm). Also, the dues to various agencies should be paid in instalments,” said chief secretary.
It was during the ND Tiwari regime that the corporation was formed in 2003.It came into existence three years after Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh.
At present, UTC has a fleet of 1,410 buses of which 77 are air-conditioned, 41 semi-deluxe and 46 Volvo luxury buses. The remaining 1,246 are ordinary buses and mostly in very poor condition.
Insiders familiar with the functioning of the UTC say the losses it is suffering could not be linked with a single reason. Passengers prefer private and other state corporation buses over those of the UTC’s ageing fleet. Besides, the repeated complaints of financial bungling and some staff members being allegedly involved in selling diesel in the open market are other major reasons.
Information sought under RTI ACT revealed that the UTC spent ₹150 crore on diesel to run the buses in the financial year 2016-17. It spent another ₹5 crore on getting the buses repaired.
In fact, a month ago the officials were left red-faced when they came to know that few conductors have shown the ticket entries in the names of Members of Parliament (MPs) and accredited journalists. Seventeen categories of people, including freedom fighters, MLAs, MPs, senior citizens and accredited journalists, are provided free travel in buses operated by the UTC.
It was alleged that the conductors fraudulently punched tickets for ₹0 on hand-held machines in the name of MPs, MLAs and journalists. The conductors, it was alleged, pocketed pocketing the amount they made from passengers who actually travelled without ticket on the reserved seats. Also, the state government reimburses the transport department for the money accrued against such tickets.
This ‘scam’, official said, had been going on for long.
Transport minister Yashpal Arya said that action was being initiated against those found guilty. “Moreover we are making every possible effort so that corporation comes out of the red and provide the best service to the commuters,” the minister said.
Incidentally, the Uttarakhand Roadways Karmchari Union last moved the Nainital high court to stop disciplinary action initiated against 30 conductors accused of irregularities in punching tickets. The union claims that conductors were not at fault as categories 13 and 14, which are for MPs and senior citizens, were interchanged in the ticket software. “The conductors were not told about this and they kept punching tickets. Thus the tickets issued to senior citizens reflected as one issued to MPs,” union president Kamal Papne had earlier told HT.