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Bus mantra: Privatise and earn

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 25: The loss-making public sector unit — the Odisha State Road Transport Corporation Limited — will hand over its last fleet of 34 buses to private operators through an auction tomorrow.

With the completion of the last phase of handover, the OSRTC will no longer own any bus. Even though the ownership of the buses remains with the OSRTC, it is the private operators who virtually own the buses.

Out of the OSRTC fleet of nearly 379 buses, 286 are operational at present. Of these, OSRTC has already given 252 buses on lease to private operators.

According to the conditions of the privatisation model, the corporation will own the buses, but the private operators will manage the vehicles.

“We have invited parties to take the buses on lease. They will appoint the conductors and drivers and collect the fare. They will give us at least the fare of 40 passengers on a route every day,” said OSRTC deputy general manager A.P. Behera.

The OSRTC, however, will have the responsibility of maintenance of all the buses.

“It has become difficult to operate the buses. At each stop, we had to pay protection money to the local goons for picking up passengers. But as government operators, we cannot do these things. However, private operators have their own ways of doing such things. So, it affected our business. We were incurring losses on almost all the routes. We introduced this scheme of leasing out vehicles to private operators to overcome the losses,” said Behera.

Out of 160 routes, the OSRTC has already given permission to the private operators to operate on 126 routes.

Official sources said though the lease scheme was launched on a low-key in 2004-05, it did not have many takers until two years ago. After the OSRTC simplified its procedure and assured the private parties that it would provide them all support, there is now a rush of private operators for lease.

On the other hand, sources said the OSRTC staff had failed to make it a profit-making organisation, so its management was compelled to hand over the buses to the private operators.

“Had we not handed over the buses, the OSRTC would have been shut down and the existing 1,500 employees would have problems getting their salary,” a senior official said.

The OSRTC, which came into existence in 1974, had turned into a loss-making unit in the 1990’s. It was even unable to regularly pay salary to its employees till 2008.

“After we handed over some buses to private operators on lease basis, the organisation has started earning profits. Our net surplus now stands at Rs 2.42 crore,” said an OSRTC official.