The state tourism department’s purchase of five luxury buses costing Rs5.41 crore, was made arbitrarily and hurriedly, reveals the reply to a ‘Right To Information’ query.
About a year ago, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation bought the buses to ply them for tourism in the Konkan region. dna had reported how these buses, Konkan Royale, were too huge for the narrow Konkan roads.
The RTI inquiry reveals that after it had initially been decided to purchase five smallVolvo buses at a cost of Rs3.82 crore. However, the corporation suddenly changed its mind and placed an order for the larger multi-axle coaches which cost them over Rs 5.41 crore. That’s Rs1.59 crore more than what the smaller buses would have cost.
The ill-ease to manoeuvre the buses along the narrow roads of the picturesque districts of the region became the reason for these buses to gather dust for nearly a year since they were purchased. Until recently, no operator bid for its operation, citing ‘narrow roads’ as the reason.
Documents procured in reply to the RTI query imply that the corporation had hired a consultant, Fortress Infrastructure Advisory Services, for Rs8.10 lakh to guide through the process including purchase. However, the corporation rushed through the purchase process and bought longer buses before the consultant turned in its report.
The other side
In its response, MTDC without clarifying what led to a sudden change in plan to buy longer buses, said they were bought as per a Rs5.5 crore grant given to promote tourism. MTDC did not explain why it did not wait for the consultant’s report. Officials say that a tour firm was recently given a contract to operate the buses at Rs75 lakh for five years. It would take MTDC over 30 years to recover costs. An MTDC official said they will get advertising rights on over 100 buses run by the operator.