Even as the unions of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) called-off their 52-day strike on Monday, the management of the state-run bus service refused to take back its 48,00-plus employees back to work, stating that they cannot go on strike as they please and then return to work. who have been on strike since called-off their strike on Monday evening,
The decision to call-off the strike was finally taken by the TSRTC unions, which have formed a joint action committee (JAC), on Monday after a meeting. The strike had begun on 5 October, with the JAC putting forth 26 demands, with the primary demand to merge the TSRTC with the state government (something that chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, or KCR, outrightly rejected).
A statement from TSRTC managing director Sunil Sharma said that the employees will not be taken back to work, as their strike is illegal, and that the management will deploy the required security to ensure that the employees do not disrupt or try to prevent the temporary bus drivers and conductors across TSRTC bus depots. Sharma said that he will follow the Telangana High Court’s directions on this matter (over an ongoing petition about the strike).
Sharma even termed the JAC’s decision to call-off the strike “ridiculous". “The (TS)RTC employees and workers have abstained from duties on their own and were on an illegal strike. They went on an illegal strike during important festivals like Bathukamma, Dussera and Deepavali and have caused immense inconvenience to the people. The RTC workers and employees are on an illegal strike now," said his statement.
The TSRTC managing director also requested workers to not obstruct temporary workers at bus depots and added that the state government will not tolerate anyone who breaks the law. The JAC leaders however were yet to react to Sharma’s statement.
KCR in a statement last week also said that the TSRTC has debts and dues worth Rs.2,000 crore that have to be paid immediately. “Diesel dues are also to be paid. Transport Tax dues are pending for the last two years. New buses should be purchased to replace with the 2,600 old buses. PF dues to the tune of Rs.65-70 crore are to be paid every month. In total, to run TSRTC as on date, ₹640 Crore is needed per month. Who will bear this financial burden? The TSRTC has no financial strength to incur this expenditure," said his statement.
Prior to that, after the strike began on 5 October, KCR had given an ultimatum to the TSRTC employees to return to work by 5 November, and had said that those who would not join back will be considered as “self-dismissed". He also had announced earlier this month that 5,100 private vehicles will be given permits to run on TSRTC routes, allowing for privatization of the bus service in Telangana.
The strike by the TSRTC unions had crippled public transport initially, prompting the state government to hire temporary drivers to run some of the bus services. Moreover, the indefinite strike has also led to the TSRTC suffering major losses. The organizarion has suffered a loss of over Rs.200 crore in over a month due to the strike by its employees.
The strike, has increased the TSRTC's daily operation loss from about Rs.2 crore a day to Rs.5.5 to Rs.6 crore a day and has only compounded the organization's monetary problems. It is to be seen how the union leaders react to Sharma’s statement, and whether the TSRTC employees will resort to violence on Tuesday at bus depots.