The recently announced budget proposals by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant have sought to bring sweeping changes in the transport department turning the State into a transport hub with an allocation of Rs 306.09 crore. On top of the list are plans to change the entire fleet of KTCL vehicles into battery-operated EVs in a bid to bring in a positive change. The CM proposed to usher in a change in the overall transportation system in the larger interest of tourism.
Road congestion, accidents, poor connectivity, and decline in tourism are factors that directly or indirectly contribute to a poor transportation system. Goa’s poor transportation has been a talking point for almost a decade, and the decline was obvious. From the operations perspective, sustainability has been a nightmare for the corporation which has recorded losses running into crores over the years.
Poor transportation has become the root of all evil in the modern day. People are forced to bring their vehicles on the roads because the transportation system is failing, adding more traffic to an already congested environment. Tourists are having second thoughts about Goa because it does not offer them the flexibility and security of travel. Let’s not forget that robust public transportation has been a hallmark of all successful tourist destinations across the world.
On paper, the budget proposal to bolster the transport system sounds ambitious, and giving a new direction to the KTC is indeed a positive step. But what about the plight on the ground? Is the KTCL staff ready to embrace the change and take off to a new high? Or is there another story to tell, while the CM unveils a futuristic and picture-perfect plan?
On Monday, the staff of KTC sat in protest at Azad Maidan in Panaji listing out their six demands. They sought new buses so that citizens get better services and argued that out of the 400 KTC buses, 250 were not fit for the road. They raised issues of pending arrears for almost three years, 7th Pay settlement issues, Provident Fund restoration of staff, etc. Also, they lamented that nothing has come out of the 7-8 meetings with the CM apart from mere assurances of pay hikes.
While the KTC making an incremental change in their fleet by introducing EV buses on select routes is a welcome step and could go a long way in fulfilling the change that CM has envisaged in the budget, the welfare of staff has been a glaring issue that has literally punctured the wheels of the KTC revolution.
While upgrading buses, the corporation will have to factor in the welfare of its staff. Denying pending dues and making false assurances to employees cuts out a sorry picture, especially when the government wants to usher in a change. Sadly, drivers had to come on the streets to inform that 250 KTC buses are not road-worthy while requesting the corporation to induct new buses. With so much promise in the budget, the protest by the drivers comes as a complete vote of no confidence.
The government will have to see this issue from a more humane side and ensure that money owed to employees is settled before redirecting the KTCL journey.