Call it the apathetic attitude or the fiscal mess of the Punjab government, its failure to clear the pending dues of the already debt-ridden Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) has resulted in the corporation failing to clear the arrears of its employees and loan instalments for past several months.
The government has failed to disburse corporation’s dues worth Rs 75 crore in exchange for the free travel and concession facility for the past 15 months.
Among the 18 beneficiary categories, including the visually-impaired, school students, cops, jail wardens, freedom fighters, disabled, elderly, etc., are either availing of free or concessional travel on PRTC buses, and fare for the facility is to be cleared by the government every three months.
On the contrary, the state government in a recent order directed the PRTC to clear a loan of Rs 24 crore taken in 2010, before September 30, 2016. The corporation is also yet to pay off loans worth Rs 60 crore to various banks, which were taken to manage the financial load in previous years.
The cash-strapped corporation has also been struggling to pay the monthly pensions and salaries to its employees. Besides, it owes arrears of more than Rs 100 crore to retired employees in form of their general provident fund (GPF), reimbursement of medical bills, gratuity, etc.
But despite repeated pleas and meetings with authorities concerned, the PRTC continues to wait for the dues.
All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal said, “If the state government paid departmental claims in time, pensioners and employees will get salary on time every month.”
He claimed that the government had announced in 2013 to provide Rs 25 crore annually to the PRTC to clear the pending arrears of pensioners. But after paying Rs 10 crore once in 2013, it never released any funds.
PRTC managing director (MD) Gurpal Singh Chahal said, “The corporation has written to the department concerned to pay instalments of their pending departmental claims to clear the arrears. A meeting with the state finance minister, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, was also held recently in this regards at Chandigarh.”
“As soon as we receive the pending free travel expenses from the government, pensions will be cleared,” he added.