Amidst clamour for free bus passes for students travelling in State Road Transport Corporation (RTC) buses, the four RTCs have been facing shortfall of ₹1,979.96 crore, including government dues of ₹846.96 crore, for passes issued during the last four years.
The B.S. Yeddyurappa government introduced free passes for primary school students and offered further concession to girls studying in high school (2008-09), while the Siddaramaiah government introduced free passes for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (2017-18). Free passes to all students was a promise made by Mr. Siddaramaiah in the 2018-19 poll budget.
The average cost of passes comes to around ₹70 and ₹100 per month for 10 months for high school and college students. Under the existing system, the government shares 50% of the cost towards passes while 25% each is shared by RTCs (KSRTC, NWKRTC, NEKRTC, and BMTC) and students, respectively.
“Though students’ share is 25% of the pass cost, in reality it comes to just about 7%,” said a senior KSRTC official. Moreover, pass rates have not been increased since about eight years though there had been periodical bus fare revisions.
The RTCs should have received ₹1,650.11 crore as share from students for the last four years. But they got only ₹516.11 crore, a shortfall of ₹1,133 crore, said a source.
The government, too, does not reimburse its share on time, and every time the reimbursement would be lesser to the actual amount, said the official. While the government should have reimbursed ₹3,300.21 crore in the last four years, it gave ₹2,488.58 crore, the officer said. Given the delayed and short-changed government reimbursement, the RTCs are learnt to have told the government that it was not feasible to offer complete free passes to all students and favoured continuing the existing set up. However, the poll-bound government went ahead with the proposal, sources said.