The deceased was identified as K. Neeraja (30), a woman who worked as a conductor at the Sathupalli bus depot in Khammam. Neeraja’s body was found hanging in her home, said Tafseer Iqbal, Khammam commissioner of police. “The reason behind her death is yet to be ascertained. We will know that only after we conduct inquiries," he said.
Srinivas Reddy, a TSRTC driver from the same district, attempted self-immolation and died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Hyderabad on 13 October. His was the first reported death among TSRTC employees.
A third death from suicide was that of Surender Goud, a conductor, who hanged himself in Hyderabad. It was followed by the death of Khaja Miyan, of Khammam district, from heart attack on 20 October.
Union leaders of the TSRTC, who have formed a joint action committee (JAC), have alleged that the suicides were caused by the stress of uncertainty. However, the police has not confirmed this. Iqbal said that the details of Reddy’s case cannot be revealed at this time as the investigation was on.
An indefinite strike of TSRTC employees began on 5 October, with more than 48,000 people abstaining from work.
After the strike began, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, or KCR, had said that all the more than 48,000 employees who had abstained from work will be considered “self-dismissed". On 12 October he called the strike “illegal and unauthorized" and said he would not hold talks with TSRTC unions.
The strike has crippling public transport, prompting the state government to hire temporary drivers to run some of the bus services. The JAC has put up 26 demands, which include salary hikes, due since 2017 according to the JAC, and merger of the TSRTC with the state government.
Following directions by Telangana high court, the TSRTC managing director and transport secretary Sunil Sharma had on 25 October called the JAC leader for talks. The result was a failure, as the state government officials were only willing to discuss 21 of the 26 demands, which did not include the merger. JAC leaders who attended the talks, came out unhappy, and alleged that their phones were taken away before the meeting.
On 24 October, KCR said he would soon decide on giving private vehicles permits to operate on TSRTC routes. The chief minister also defended his refusal to meet JAC leaders, saying the committee he had appointed to look into the demands of the TSRTC unions represents the government.
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