*MLAs fuming as hilly areas not getting attention of Tpt Deptt
JAMMU, Jan 24: Unbelievable it may sound but it is a fact that Government today ‘reproduced’ the reply on increasing State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) fleet given during the last Budget Session despite the fact that Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are fuming over ignoring of hilly areas by the Transport Department. Moreover, the Government has back-tracked from the announcement made in the Budget for 2015-16 financial year on outsourcing of State Motor Garages (SMG), which provides transport to the Council of Ministers, Senior State Government functionaries and State guests.
During the previous Budget Session held at Srinagar in June last year, the Minister of State for Transport (Independent Charge), Sunil Sharma while replying to the queries of several Opposition MLAs, had stated: “The Government contemplates to increase the fleet of SRTC. More buses will be operated on ignored routes for the public convenience when the new buses are procured and inducted in the fleet”.
Though more than six months have lapsed since the last Budget Session yet induction of more vehicles in the existing fleet of the SRTC has remained a proposal mainly for want of financial assistance to the Transport Department from the State Government and this compelled the Minister for Transport to ‘reproduce’ the reply while answering the queries of the Members of Legislative Assembly from the Opposition parties during the Discussion on the Grants of Transport Department for the financial year 2017-18 in the Assembly today.
Admitting that the main object of the SRTC is to provide regular, adequate, economical and coordinated services to the general public in the State, the Minister said, “as and when the augmentation of fleet takes place, the services on more routes will be operated”, adding “this has been proposed under AMRUT scheme”.
“The SRTC is procuring its fleet out of plan funds being provided by the State Government for which Rs 3.75 crore each have been earmarked for the year 2016-17 and 2017-18”, he said, adding “the Corporation will be able to procure only 10 vehicles during the current financial year and another 10 vehicles in next financial year out of the plan outlay”.
This clearly established that Government has not paid any special attention towards the SRTC so as to facilitate it in procurement of required number of vehicles and plying the same in the hilly and remote areas where shortage of passenger vehicles has become a major cause of concern for over-loading and subsequent tragic road accidents. As per the official figures, there has been gradual reduction of plan allocation for the SRTC during the past 10 years.
“The routes can be considered as and when the fleet is augment”— was the reply to each and every Opposition MLA, who demanded SRTC bus service on different routes to overcome the menace of overloading in private passenger vehicles. As the reply was similar to that furnished during last Budget Session the MLAs accused the PDP-BJP Coalition Government of being non-serious towards the necessity of meeting the requirement of buses in remote areas.
Moreover, the Government has back-tracked from the announcement made by the Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu while presenting Budget for the financial year 2015-16 on March 22, 2015 regarding outsourcing State Motor Garages (SMG).
In his Budget speech, the Finance Minister had stated that the Government will carve out some administrative departments and put them into the non-departmental fold. “The prime candidate to start this change being the State Motor Garages (SMG)”, he had announced.
Today when MLA from Udhampur Pawan Kumar Gupta wanted to know the steps initiated in order to translate this announcement into reality, the Transport Minister said, “the State Motor Garages Department cannot be proposed for outsourcing”.
Citing various reasons for change in stance, the Minister said that Department provides transport to State guests like delegates from outside the country, Council of Ministers of Government of India, Judges of Supreme Court and Chief Justice of other States whose security and hospitality cannot be compromised.
“Moreover, SMG provides transport facility to Council of Ministers and they cannot be made to depend on private transporters at any odd hour as the department has very effectively performed during turmoil, unrest in 2008, 2010, floods in 2014 and during recent unrest in Kashmir valley”, the Minister said, adding “the State Motor Garages has been efficiently maintaining the Bullet Proof Vehicles of SSG, other departmental vehicles as well as its own fleet”.
The back-tracking from earlier stance has clearly established that no serious discussion was held by the Finance Minister before making announcement in this regard in his Budget speech for the financial year 2015-16.