The Judicial Preview Commission of the Andhra Pradesh government has asked the State Road Transport Corporation to drop the move to induct eco-friendly electric buses into its fleet and suggested purchase of new diesel buses to replace the aged vehicles. It also said there was no need for the government to extend a Rs 45 lakh subsidy per electric bus to the service provider as the state was already under severe financial duress.
Commission Judge B Sivasankara Rao made the crucial recommendations after reviewing the Request for Proposal floated by the RTC in September for hiring 350 electric buses for deployment in different cities of the state. RTC planned to deploy 50 buses on the Tirupati-Tirumala ghat route, 100 each in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam and 50 each in Kakinada and Amaravati, to be run on various routes in the respective regions.
The APSRTC invited bids in September for deployment of 350 AC electric buses on Gross Cost Contract (GCC) basis, under Phase-II of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid&) Electric Vehicles (FAME) in India scheme, but cancelled the tender in early November. It floated a fresh tender and submitted it to the Judicial Preview Commission for scrutiny as per the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure (Transparency through Judicial Preview) Act, 2019, since the tender value is over Rs 100 crore.
As per the Act, the Commission judge placed the tender in public domain and invited objections and suggestions. Only four companies submitted their suggestions and objections, following which the judge gave his recommendations to the RTC. Based on RTCs replies, the judge gave his final decision on the matter two days ago.
As per the Act, the judges recommendations are binding on the government. "We will discuss the issue with the Chief Minister and take an appropriate call on the course of action, top official sources told PTI.
Citing the air quality monitoring data provided by the AP Pollution Control Board, the judge noted that there is no air pollution below the quality standard in the state, and as such, no pressing urgency for induction of e-buses. "One thing is clear, APSRTC tuning to fuel buses technology with BS-VI standards is more worthy from their operational expertise when compared to adapting all of a sudden massive and still to develop, if not a developing, concept of e-bus technological devices, the judge said.
He also said it is not at all advisable or suggestible to grant subsidy of Rs 45 lakh per e-bus by the state government or APSRTC, which is the cost of a diesel bus that can be substituted."
The Commission judge objected to the proposal to grant Rs 45 lakh per e-bus as incentive/subsidy to the fleet provider, saying the total financial obligation on the state would be Rs 157.50 crore. Giving such a huge incentive is not only non-viable, but a loss to the exchequer. It is in fact the main public objection raised when the very government of AP is in financial stress, it is not advisable to fund for the electric buses as additional incentive, he added.