Hampered by a shortage of qualified drivers, 1,400 Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses stay parked during the evening peak time, leading to problems for commuters and huge losses for the state-run corporation.
"Forty per cent of our buses - approximately 1,400 - remain idle during the evening time as we are badly hit with a shortage of qualified drivers," DTC spokesperson Swatanter Dua told.
Dua said the situation has become grave after last month's high court direction on appointing only higher secondary-passed candidates as drivers of a public transport bus. According to DTC rules, the drivers only had to have cleared Class 10.
DTC Chairperson Anshu Prakash said: "The corporation has sought a temporary relaxation in the court directive to allow it to recruit those who have cleared Class 10 examinations instead of Class 12 as drivers."
"The public transport system would be paralysed without drivers if the ruling is not relaxed."
Prakash said there are at least 3,000 vacancies for drivers in the DTC. During the recruitment drive, the DTC received 3,500 applications - of which only 1,200 were of candidates who had passed Class 12. The written test for the recruitment has been fixed for June 10.
"Efforts are being made to improve the situation," he added.
DTC figures for 2005 put the total number of buses in its fleet as on Jan 31, 2006 at 3,469. However, the average number of buses plying every day is 3,010.
According to the annual audit report, DTC's bottomline has been going from bad to worse for the last five years. One of the main reasons for the accumulated losses is the subsidy on concessional passes.
Another problem that the capital's bus service is struggling with is surplus staff. The report said the corporation has a surplus of over 2,000 conductors, 1,147 maintenance and 141 administrative staff. However, the report does point out the shortage of drivers.
DTC registered an unprecedented loss of Rs 8 billion in 2005-06, with the buses running at a loss of Rs 31.57 per km. The corporation had suffered a loss of Rs 40 billion till March 31, 2006, as compared to Rs 31 billion in the previous financial year.
DTC has 27,818 employees, comprising drivers, conductors, traffic supervisory, repair and maintenance, and administration staff. Its 34 depots are involved in operation and maintenance of the buses.