Roadways union, govt not on same page over km scheme

CHANDIGARH: The Haryana Roadways Employees Union and the Manohar Lal Khattar government can’t seem to see eye to eye on the Transport Department’s kilometre scheme even as the government has scrapped its tender for 510 buses after finding certain financial irregularities in an inquiry.

Geetanjali Gayatri

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 21

The Haryana Roadways Employees Union and the Manohar Lal Khattar government can’t seem to see eye to eye on the Transport Department’s kilometre scheme even as the government has scrapped its tender for 510 buses after finding certain financial irregularities in an inquiry. It, however, remains firm on introducing the scheme.

While the employees’ union sees the kilometre scheme as an attempt at privatisation and is openly opposing it, Khattar, at a meeting with various unions yesterday, has made it clear that there was no going back on this scheme and it would be introduced.

However, Khattar, vindicating the stance of the union on a “scam” in the tender for such buses, admitted that there have been some irregularities and said it was being scrapped. “The report points out that there exists a variation in the rate at which the buses should have been purchased. This will be presented in court and whoever is guilty of finalising these inflated rates will be punished and criminal proceedings will be initiated,” said Khattar, maintaining that the report would be presented in court.

He said the roadways’ union and the employees’ unions had been told, in no uncertain terms, that the kilometre scheme would not be suspended. He said 867 new buses would be added to the fleet of the Haryana Roadways shortly.

The kilometre scheme entails hiring of private buses by the government for plying on certain identified routes, which would have a driver of the private party and the conductor would be a government employee. The private operator would be paid on the kilometre basis under the scheme.

In the tender for 510 buses, which were to be hired from private contractors, the union had alleged that very high operation rates had been fixed. “We had maintained that there was some nexus between private players and the department leading to fixing of disproportionate rates for operation. Nobody heard us till the courts intervened. Our allegations stand proven in the Vigilance report,” Sarbat Punia, an office-bearer of the roadways union said.

He maintained that the union was against the scheme because it would mean loss to the government since these private operators would be paid on the basis of kilometres whether or not these bus services are used. “If the drivers employed under the scheme are those of the operator, the government will not recruit new drivers when unemployment is the biggest worry. Also, private operators cannot provide safe transport as do government buses,” said Punia.

The union, in the light of the government rejecting the union’s demand for suspending the scheme, will carry on with its public mobilisation programmes at various depots to convince the commuters to stand by them. “We will meet the Governor on August 20 as part of a delegation to convince him about our arguments. We may even have to plan an agitation,” said Punia.

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