Government is a loss-making proposition

Shut it down

Published: Monday 31 January 2005

-- theMadhya Pradesh (mp) government had hired a consultancy to suggest ways of managing the mp State Road Transport Corporation (mpsrtc). Before the consultant could give a report, the state government announced its decision to shut down the corporation (see p15). It could have saved the money spent on the consultancy and asked mpsrtc employees. Bus conductors openly point out that private bus operators have better buses, cheaper tickets, still making profits to stay afloat. They also point out -- not so openly -- that they pocket the money passengers pay because they don't get salaries. This practice is well organised and runs right up the pecking order of the corporation.

The present Bharatiya Janata Party came to power last year after fighting elections on two main issues: roads and electricity. The voter wasn't told that better roads (yet to be built) would be only for private vehicles and private bus operators.

So here are two things public transport should not do: run losses and not pay salaries to employees. But what is it that it should do? Could it be that the purpose of public transport is to provide transport to those people that can't own private vehicles? Not in Indian states. Successive state governments across the country have used public sector transport corporations to provide jobs for short-term political gain. The bloated corporations are now struggling to pay salaries. It was the politicians who forgot the meaning of public transport. And now they say they can't run these corporations and want to pass public transport to the unregulated private sector. And who owns these private buses? Spend some leisurely moments with conductors of private buses in Bhopal (or any other city). These soorma Bhopalis are on the pay rolls of political leaders, the likes of whom have shut down mpsrtc . No wonder they aren't interested in the tough decisions to make public utilities deliver the services that the poor need direly. Their stakes lie elsewhere.

The government has openly stated that it can't take care of those that can't take care of themselves. This is the most shameless abdication of responsibility. mpsrtc bus conductors say the state government itself is a loss-making proposition, as its poor fiscal record shows. If the state government's logic were to be used on it, it should be closed. mp needs a voluntary retirement plan for chief minister Babulal Gaur and his entire cabinet.

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