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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Maharashtra: Covid compounds losses of cash-strapped road transport corporation

The Corporation has accrued losses of Rs 6400 crore from April 2020 till May 2021, after it was forced to regulate its inter-district operations due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
June 4, 2021 1:35:22 am
The MSRTC has introduced new schemes over the months in a bid to recover the losses.

ALREADY REELING under monetary losses, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has been dealt a severe body blow after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Corporation has accrued losses of Rs 6400 crore from April 2020 till May 2021, after it was forced to regulate its inter-district operations due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.

The Corporation, which runs inter- as well as intra-district public transport services, had been facing a cash crunch before the lockdown too and had a debt burden of over Rs 3500 crore. The shutting down of services during the two lockdowns, imposed last year and this year, has increased its debt burden to Rs 9500 crore.

The halt in services has meant that MSRTC buses, which would run 55 lakh km a day before the lockdown, ran only 21.85 lakh km a day during the April 2020-May 2021 period. With this, the daily earning of the Corporation has gone down from Rs 21.65 crore to Rs 6.94 crore. “The MSRTC has suffered a loss of Rs 6,400 crore approximately just during these 14 months of pandemic. Earlier, the cumulative loss of the corporation till March 2020 was Rs 3500 crore. When combined with the current loss due to the pandemic, it goes up to Rs 9900 crore,” said an official, requesting anonymity.

The MSRTC has introduced new schemes over the months in a bid to recover the losses.

According to the officials, last year in May, the Corporation had started a goods freight services which would transport the goods of farmers, small entrepreneurs, traders and manufacturers at affordable rates. Through this, the MSRTC managed to earn Rs 56 crore from 95,000 round trips through 1,150 cargo vehicles.

Noting the success of these services, a government resolution (GR) has been introduced directing the state’s 17 departments to carry out 25 per cent of their goods’ transportation through Mahacargo — the Corporation’s goods freight services. The MSRTC plans to generate annual revenue of Rs 150 crore through this service.

The Corporation is also planning to launch a ‘part-load freight’ (parcel service) for the general public, along with small and individual freighters in a bid to earn more revenue.

Shekhar Channe, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the MSRTC, told The Indian Express: “The Corporation is suffering losses due to the lockdown; we are trying our best to recover them. We have also introduced a few schemes to get an additional income. The (state) government also helped last time (in 2020) in releasing the salaries of the employees and so far, there have been no such issues this time around.”

MSRTC has an employee strength of over 99,000 personnel and there is a fear among the workers that the precarious financial situation of the agency could lead to job losses.

Shrirang Barge, the general secretary of Maharashtra ST (State Transport) Karmachari Congress, said that the new projects being launched by the agency could not compensate for the losses that it was facing already.

State transport minister Anil Parab, during a virtual event to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the MSRTC on Tuesday, said that “whatsoever the situation arises, no employee of the MSRTC will lose their job”, adding, “The corporation stands firmly behind all the employees.”

Last year, Maharashtra government had sanctioned a financial assistance of Rs 1,000 crore to pay the salaries of the state-run Corporation’s employees.

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