Tension prevailed in different parts of Hyderabad on Tuesday when nearly 800 employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) who tried to resume their duties were detained by the police. Across the city, heavy police presence was seen at TSRTC bus depots and the Bus Bhavan, as the management of the state-run bus service had on Monday said that it would not take back any of the 48,000-odd employees who were on strike.
On Tuesday, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao also convened a cabinet meeting to discuss the fate of the TSRTC. A statement from his office said that the issue will be “prominently discussed", and that the two-day cabinet meeting will “discuss at length on the measures to be taken to end the (TS)RTC impasse in the state". The 52-day indefinite strike by the TSRTC employees, which was led by TSRTC unions, was called-off on Monday night.
Prior to this, Rao (KCR), had issued an ultimatum to the employees who were on strike since 5 October, to return to work by 5 November. However, only about 400-odd of them had reported back to work. On Tuesday, the city police in Hyderabad detained and took into custody several TSRTC employees from different depots after they tried to re-join their duties.
Cases were booked against the employees under different police station limits in the scuffles that ensued in the process, and close to 800 people were taken into custody alone from Hyderabad. Local media reports suggested that the numbers were higher.
A day earlier after the TSRTC union leaders called-off the 52-day strike, TSRTC managing director Sunil Sharma said that the employees would not be taken back and also termed the decision by unions to call-off the strike “ridiculous". It is to be seen, once the cabinet meeting concludes, as to what the chief minister will decide, as he has earlier this month announced that 5,100 private vehicles will be given permits to run on TSRTC routes, allowing for privatization of the TSRTC.
“The decision of the managing director will not be binding, as he also said that a final decision on the matter will be taken once the High Court gives its verdict (on the strike, based on a petition by unions). We have to wait and see what happens," said a senior TSRTC official, who did not want to be quoted. Union leaders, when contacted, however did not respond.
The strike by the unions had begun on 5 October, with leaders putting forth 26 demands which included the primary demand to merge the TSRTC with the state government (something that KCR outrightly rejected). KCR in a statement last week also said that the TSRTC has debts and dues worth Rs2,000 crore that have to be paid immediately and that the state-run bus service has no financial strength to incur this expenditure.