HYDERABAD : Government buses continued to stay off the roads for the second consecutive day on Sunday, as employees of the Telangana State Roads Transport Corporation (TSRTC) continued with their indefinite strike which began a day earlier. The strike, led by unions under the banner of the joint action committee (JAC) continued to press with their demand to merge the TSRTC with the state government.

Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on Sunday refused to budge and said he will not negotiate with the TSRTC unions and employees. Rao categorically said that there is no question of the state government merging the TSRTC with it.

Rao, in a statement released on Sunday night, said that given that Dushera is on 8 October, the state government will hire 2,500 private buses to make up for the buses that are off the roads. While agreeing that the TSRTC needs to be improved, Rao said that his government will also conduct fresh recruitments and that the TSRTC will get back to normal in 15 days.

Being a public holiday, the situation was not as crippling as it was on Saturday when the strike began. Owing to the lack of bus services, the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR) began its services on 6AM on Sunday, as against its usual 7AM. HMR managing director N. V. S. Reddy said that the last metro train would operate till 11PM, and reach their terminals by midnight. On Saturday, 3.65 lakh passengers used the metro, much higher than the 2.7 lakh usually seen on weekends, he added.

E. Ashwathama Reddy, chairman of the joint action committee (JAC) of the Telangana RTC employees and unions said that the strike will continue till the government doesn’t meet their demands. “Till now no government official has come to talk to us. We will call-off the strike only when they come meet us, and discuss the issue," he told Mint. As many as 52,000 employees of the TSRTC are off duty due to the indefinite strike.

Reddy added that chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) had promised to merge the TSRTC with the state government long ago. “The state imposes various taxes on the corporation, due to which it suffers a lot of losses, and does not give any funds. That is why the corporation has been suffering," he had said earlier. The protest began at the risk of employees losing their jobs, which the state government said would happen if they don’t report to their duties by 6PM on Saturday.

The strike also began just three days prior to Dussehra, and is likely to impact thousands of people from city, who would have otherwise travelled back home to their villages for the festival.

In a stern warning, a statement from the chief minister’s office on 4 October said, “RTC employees have been given time till 6PM on Saturday. If they don’t join their duties, they will be deemed to have given up their jobs on their own and there is no question of taking them back into the services."

Local TV channels on Saturday also reported that buses were confined to depots in several parts of the Telangana with TSRTC employees locking up the gates and staging protests in front of bus stations. The state government had also formed a committee comprising IAS officers, including transport secretary Sunil Sharma, to look into the issue earlier this week.

The committee held talks with the striking unions, but still hit an impasse, as the unions refused to roll back their main demand of merging the TSRTC with the state government. The committee, while maintaining that there could be an amicable solution to this problem, had earlier also asked the employees not to go on strike.

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