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The indefinite strike by employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corp. (TSRTC) entered its 25th day on Tuesday, marking the longest protest by transport associations in the region. In 2001, employees of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corp. had stayed off work for 24 days.

On Tuesday, the Telangana high court also directed the state government to allow TSRTC unions to hold a public meeting at the Saroornagar stadium. The police had earlier denied permission for the meeting to union leaders, who have formed a joint action committee (JAC).

Interestingly, the Telangana Mazdoor Union (TMU), which is leading the indefinite strike, was created eight years ago when the Telangana statehood agitation was at its peak. M. Thomas Reddy and E. Ashwathama Reddy, who were part of the National Mazdoor Union, had broken away from the body to form the TMU with support from K. Chandrashekar Rao, the incumbent chief minister of Telangana, are now up in arms against the very man.

The TMU celebrated its eighth foundation day on 19 October, amid the strike, and in a mark of protest, its leaders removed the colour pink from the union’s flag, signifying that it no longer wants to have ties with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, or TRS. State finance minister Harish Rao, who was made honorary president of the TMU, has resigned from his post following the strike.

“We founded TMU with KCR eight years ago. Without the TSRTC, there would have been no Telangana, and he would have not become chief minister. The people who stood in the frontline during the protests was us. He promised us something, and forgot it. He is trying to destroy the TSRTC, that is why we are fighting today. This issue is not about us and the state government, it is an issue between the public and the government," said TMU working president Thomas Reddy.

The TSRTC has over 48,000 employees, and since 5 October, none of them have attended work, despite KCR’s warning that all those who do not report to work will be considered as “self-dismissed". Thomas Reddy claimed that the last time they met KCR after Telangana was formed, was in 2017, when he had promised them that he will help the TSRTC.

The JAC has put forth 26 demands, including salary hikes due since 2017 and merger of the TSRTC with the state government. Following directions of the high court, TSRTC managing director and transport secretary Sunil Sharma had on 25 October called the JAC leaders for talks, but the talks failed, as the state government was willing to discuss only 21 of the demands.

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