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Reforms

Nov 30, 2003
A turnaround story from Assam

With steady money coming in, Datta began paying off the workers opting for the VRS. Having put it on operational mode, Datta turned to making profits. He seems a serial innovator! He began selling lottery tickets to his long distance travellers. In the beginning the prizes were small: at the end of the journey if you had won, the return journey was free. Once the idea caught the fancy of passengers prizes have gotten bigger: television sets and now even cars! Of course Mr Datta’s lottery tickets are getting more expensive too!

ASRT is becoming a savvy marketer. It now makes tidy profits selling soft drinks and food and running a courier service. The good politician that he is, Datta has not overlooked his social concerns. Because of the many privately owned buses, small workshops and body building units have appeared all over the state in replacement of the earlier centralised dysfunctional state behemoths. Datta has decreed that these must employ diploma holding technicians from the state ITIs. 5000 jobs have been created for them. He has also worked to improve road safety with surprise checks on his buses and mandatory re-test at the time of renewing driving licences.

The report in NewsFileDelhi on which this article is based, says, when Datta first declared his intentions, it was dismissed with the Assamese phrase, “gosat goru utha kotha” ("as likely as a cow climbing a tree"). But with a current net profit of Rs.15 crores, Datta’s cash cow seems to have leapt over the moon. And that feat is visible from afar: officers from road transport corporations in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal are making a beeline to Guwahati to study the miracle.


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