'We have put 26 demands forward, and the government officials wanted to discuss only 21 of them,' says one of the leaders who attended the discussion
The strike 48,000-plus employees began on 5 October, but the government declared the strike illegal and refused to hold talks with the employees
Hyderabad: The first round of talks between the state government and union leaders of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) failed as union leaders walked out of the meeting unhappy over how the discussion transpired on Saturday. Union leaders, who have formed a joint action committee (JAC), claimed that the government representatives had a restricted agenda and did not include the subject of the TSRTC’s merger with the state government.
“They took our phones even before the meeting began. We have put 26 demands forward, and the government officials wanted to discuss only 21 of them. There was so much police presence, which was intimidating," said Ashwathama Reddy from the Telangana Mazdoor union, one of the JAC leaders who attended the discussion. The notice to hold talks to the union leaders was given by Transport secretary and TSRTC managing director Sunil Sharma.
Ashwathama Reddy said that the Telangana High Court had asked both sides to conduct walks in an amicable manner. “There was no subject of the merger in our talks," he added. The court had on 19 October (based on a petition) directed both sides to conduct talks, with regard to the ongoing indefinite bus strike that has been on since 5 October.
TSRTC unions decided to go on strike, demanding for a pay hike for the 48,000-plus employees, merger of the organization with the state government, maternity leave for women employees, among others. Prior to this, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) lashed out at TSRTC unions on 24 October and said he would decide the fate of the transport body in the next five to six days, and that he would take a decision on issuing private vehicles permits to operate on TSRTC routes.
KCR had said all 48,000-plus employees who participated in the agitation will be considered “self-dismissed" and even called the strike “illegal". However, the employees never received official notices stating the same. On his instructions, the TSRTC management hired temporary drivers and run private buses. TSRTC has over 10,000-plus buses.
However, public transport since 5 October has taken a major hit across the state, as buses are the main mode of commuting for most of the public.
The next court hearing is on 28 October, and it is to be seen what the state government decides to do after that, especially after KCR’s statement with regard to issuing private vehicles with permits to operate across the state.