TSRTC leaders reject K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s move to look into their demands
Wednesday marks the nineteenth day of the indefinite bus strike, which began on 5 October
Just when it looked like the stalemate between the state government and the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) unions would end, leaders from the latter on Wednesday rejected chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s (KCR) move to look into their demands. Rao, in a statement on Tuesday night had claimed that the unions had withdrawn their demand to merge the TSRTC with the state government. The union leaders denied it and added that the indefinite strike will continue.
Wednesday marked the nineteenth day of the indefinite bus strike, which began on 5 October. The TSRTC unions, which have formed a joint action committee (JAC), have put forth over 21 demands for the state to consider, including one to merge the TSRTC with the government (it currently runs on its own as an autonomous body). M. Thomas Reddy, a union leader from the Telangana Mazdoor Union and JAC co-convenor, said that there is no question of backing down on the demands.
“The State government has decided to examine other demands of the (TS)RTC workers’ unions, as the (TS)RTC workers unions have voluntarily withdrawn their demand for merger of RTC with the State government. The Trade Union leaders initially announced that they would come for talks if only the state government’s announced merger of the RTC with the government. They said merger was their first priority," said a statement from KCR’s office on Tuesday night.
“But during the hearing on the RTC strike in High Court, they said they would not insist on the merger of the RTC with the Government," it further said, and added that the TSRTC managing director has appointed a committee with the executive directors to look into the demands.
“The strike will go on. Yesterday, the chief minister said some very upsetting things. We won’t accept it and have not given up that demand (of merger). The state government is also not releasing ₹835 crore of employees provident fund. Till date, nobody from the state government has called us for talks," Thomas Reddy told Mint. Currently, the JAC is in the midst of organizing a week-long protest till 27 October, and has also asked all the 48,000-plus TSRTC employees to not celebrate Diwali this year.
A senior legislator from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), who did not want to be quoted, said that the state government had formed the committee to look into the demands on Tuesday (based on a directive from the Telangana High Court on 19 October), as the court order had not reached the government until two days ago.
After the strike began on 5 October, KCR had said that all the 48,000-plus employees who participated in the strike will be considered as “self-dismissed" and in a statement later called the strike “illegal and authorized". However, the employees never received official notices stating the same. On his instructions, the TSRTC management has been hiring temporary drivers and private buses to run its operations (TSRTC has 10,000 plus buses).
Thomas Reddy also said that the TSRTC earns about Rs11 crore a day (verified and cross-checked with TSRTC officials), and about Rs15 to Rs17 crore on peak days like holidays. “So where is the money the state has been generating from the last 19 days by hiring temporary staff? The state government is trying to fool us," he added.
KCR, in his statement on Tuesday, also censured the opposition, particularly the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stating that states run by both the national parties have not been able to successfully operate state-run buses in the country.
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