The State-run transport corporation has 3,716 buses, of which 3,200 buses are on the road every day. According to Netaji Transport Workers Union, the technical teams at the MTC depots siphon off at least 5 litres of fuel from each bus, taking the daily pilferage to a whopping 16,000 litres of diesel. The union has complained to the management after the drivers who are its members brought it up.
“This stolen diesel is sold in the black market, and the money is shared by the technical team with other officials,” alleged V Thalapathy, the State president of the union.
Elaborating on the allegation, deputy president MV Ramamurthy said it is the technical team stationed at the depots who complete maintenance and load diesel before drivers arrive for their shift at 5 am. A fuel card system was introduced for this about a decade ago to help drivers. “The drivers begin their shift at 5 am, and work for 16 hours against the mandated 8 hours of working time… It’s not possible for drivers to check every day,” he said. The union leaders charged that technical teams utilised this opportunity to pilfer diesel from the storage facility.
Drivers alleged that the technical team would load fuel to cover a distance of 90 km, but the entry in the logbook would claim having filled fuel to cover 100 km. This variation was detected when an MTC driver took a stock of the loaded fuel a fortnight ago.
“The driver found a mismatch of 5 litres when he measured the fuel in the vehicle. While the logbook recorded 140 litres, the actual quantity was 135 liters. The union has given several representations to the higher-ups in the last few months. But they are yet to pursue the issue,” Thalapathy added.
This has had a serious effect on the perceived efficiency of the drivers. V Kaliraj, an MTC driver, said the drivers are probably saying about 1-1.5 litres of fuel every day. “But the fudged records depict a different picture altogether, leaving drivers in the lurch,” he said. Drivers allege that due to the pilferage, the higher officials studying the data accuse them of wasting more than 10 litres of diesel every day.
When contacted, a senior MTC official said that the corporation was aware of the complaint, but admitted that no measures were in place to check fuel pilferage as of now. “We have taken note of union’s plea, an inquiry will be conducted on this matter,” the official said.
According to MTC drivers, new vehicles usually give a mileage of 4.5 km for a litre of diesel, as against the MTC norm of 5.5 km. But, this can reduce, taking into account factors such as the number of passengers onboard.