“If you need to understand the difference between STUs and private operators, you need to compare the services provided by private operators in districts like Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, and those offered by STUs in fully nationalized districts like Gulbarga and Raichur", says Rajavarma Ballal, president of the state federation of private bus operators.
The government cannot go on with nationalization for long. It has to open up this space for private investment. Mr Ballal feels government-run corporations will never be able to invest as much money as needed in the sector, and run as efficiently as they do.
According to him, the government discriminates against private operators. The tax the government levies on KSRTC is different from what it extracts from us, he said. Ballal said KSRTC and other STUs pay a fraction of their earnings to the government. NWKRTC and NEKRTC have been exempted from tax till they break even. BMTC pays 3% of its earnings as tax and KSRTC pays 5%.
However, private operators are made to pay advance tax of Rs 550 per seat per quarter, irrespective of whether the bus operates and makes money or not. He said STUs suffer losses due to their inefficiency, but blame it on competition from private operators. “Worse still, the STU staff are bleeding them. They clandestinely own 75% of the 38,000 maxicabs in the state,’’ he said.
He rubbishes the argument that private operators will not ply buses to villages. “Each village with a road is covered by us in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. No such private operator has ever made losses. If you offer prompt service, people are willing to pay for it,’’ he said. “If they privatize KSRTC and let us run it, we will show them 10-fold profits,” challenges Ballal. Is the state ready for such a challenge?
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