Home Editorial MSRTC suffered losses and its workers lost lives

MSRTC suffered losses and its workers lost lives

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MSRTC suffered losses and its workers lost lives
msrtc, msrtc bus, st workers, strike, bus strike, anil parab, parab, st workers strike, st employees

While the MSRTC suffered losses over the past few years, it had never faced any issue in paying the salaries of staffers on time. But after the Covid-19 induced lockdown, salaries were delayed for months, and these allegedly triggered suicides of a few staffers due to debts and financial strain.

The state government has so far provided financial assistance of Rs 3,549 crore to MSRTC in different instalments in the past one and half years to pay salaries. Despite this capital inflow, the corporation is facing a loss of nearly Rs 9,000 crore and had difficulty in paying salaries after the pandemic struck.

Post-pandemic, nearly 40 of its staffers are reported to have committed suicide due to financial woes. The workers say that they feel “betrayed” as the main demand of merging the corporation with the state government was not put forward by the unions and not accepted by the minister but still some unknown unions called off the strike.

There was antipathy among the staffers and a belief that since the major unions in the joint action committee, which withdrew the strike, were associated with the political parties like Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party hence, their demand for the merger was not put forward and the strike was allegedly called off after some kind of ‘deal’, though the government is not openly commenting on the merger demand, stating that the matter is in the court. Some ministers believe that the government has indicated that the merger is not possible as it may set a model for all the loss-making corporations, and it would also put a lot of financial burden on the government.

Earlier, during the BJP-Shiv Sena government, the demand for the merger was raised, but the then state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was seen saying that the merger is not possible as there is no such provision in the “law”. However, during the present strike, several BJP leaders including former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Pravin Darekar and other MLCs like Sadabhau Khot and Gopichand Padalkar have openly supported the strike. Padalkar and Khot actively participated in the strike to press for the workers’ demands but withdrew later after a meeting with state Transport Minister Anil Parab when the pay hike was announced. MSRTC workers believe that there was some mutual settlement between these leaders.

In 1950, a Road Transport Corporation Act was passed by the Union government, which delegated powers to states to form their road transport corporations with the Centre contributing one-third of the capital. Thus, the Bombay State Road Transport Corporation (BSRTC) was formed and later changed its name to MSRTC with the reorganization of the state.

From its initial fleet of 30 Bedford buses having wooden bodies and coir seats, the MSRTC fleet has now expanded to 16,000 buses and 96,000 employees and runs inter-city and inter-state buses. While the transport corporation has been successful in providing low-cost travel options to lakhs of people in the state, it has not been able to remain profitable.

According to the records, the MSRTC was running in profit till the financial year 2011-12, however, it started accumulating losses from the financial year 2012-13, which went up to Rs 1,299 crore in 2014-15 and by 2019-2020 it ballooned to Rs 5,319 crore. According to official statistics, during the pre-Covid period (till March 2020) the corporation was earning around Rs 600 crore per month from ticket sales. Employee salaries, fuel and other related expenses would amount to around Rs 700-750 crore but there had been no issues in releasing salaries of the staffers. Till March 2020, the corporation was getting revenue of around Rs 20 to 22 crore per day. From the end of March 2020, due to the lockdown transport service was completely shut and as a result, daily income was lost. In these eight months, the corporation lost Rs 5,280 crore in revenue, however, the expense in terms of salaries was there and it was paying around Rs 220-290 crore in salaries.

In the eight months, Rs 2,200 crore of expense was incurred for the payment of salaries. The bus services slowly resumed in December 2020. While they were trying to return to normal at the end of February 2021, the services were shut owing to the second wave of Covid-19. The services restarted after the second wave, but due to poor response from passengers, daily income went down to Rs 10 crore daily from Rs 22 crore earlier. The corporation claims that due to all these reasons, the accumulated loss at the end of the financial year 2021-22 was expected to be around Rs 12,000 crore.

More than 90000 employees of Maharashtra State Transport Corporation, one of the largest inter-city bus systems in the country, have been on strike for more than two months, affecting thousands of travellers. The iconic red and yellow buses of the MSRTC were the queens of the state’s roads (locally known as ‘Lal Pari’), assuring low-budget travellers a safe trip from cities to far-flung interiors of the state. The intervention of Sharad Pawar and Anil Parab took a new turn; the agitating workers said they were again bullied by falling promises. Some union leaders who had met Pawar appealed for calling off the strike. It’s high time that the government and unions should come to terms and resolve this issue.