Hyderabad: The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) unions and employees will conduct rallies tomorrow at TSRTC bus depots across the state as part of its ongoing indefinite strike, which began on 5 October. Union leaders from the TSRTC joint action committee (JAC) also said that a bandh call will be given, most likely for 19 October, and that a decision on that will be decided tomorrow in consultation with opposition parties and other employee associations to finalise the date.

As the strike entered its fifth day on Wednesday, the TSRTC unions, which have come together under a JAC, consulted and met opposition parties and other employee JACs from the state. The issue might even cost the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) the upcoming Huzurnagar bye-election, as the Communist Party of India (CPI), which decided to back the TRS candidate earlier, said that it will withdraw its support if the TRS government does not accept demands put forth by the TSRTC unions.

“We will conduct rallies across all the bus depot in the state tomorrow at 11 am, and later meet with the Telangana Joint Action Committee and opposition parties at 3 pm to finalise the date of the bandh call. We have also asked for support from other employee associations. The chief minister should rethink about how he is behaving," said E. Ashwathama Reddy, Telangana Mazdoor Union president and a JAC leader. He added that the TSRTC unions will also conduct a major public meeting with all the employees as well in the coming days.

Among its demands, the protesting TSRTC unions are asking for salary hikes (due since 2017 according to the JAC) and merger of the TSRTC with the state government. So far the state government, led by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) has however refused to budge. KCR in fact had given a deadline of 6 pm on 5 October (when the strike began) to the 48,000 plus employees to return to work. Last week, in a statement, he said that the protesting employees will be considered to be “self-dismissed".

Opposition leader and Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) president Prof. M. Kodandaram said that the opposition and TSRTC will meet tomorrow to discuss the bandh call details. “This issue affects every section, and the undemocratic attitude of KCR in dismissing nearly 50,000 TSRTC employees shows how he is threatening everyone. We decided today to give a bandh call 10 days from now, and in the days leading up to it, we will take up other activities," he told Mint.

Raj Gopal, another union leader from TMU, who attended the JAC meeting on Wednesday in Hyderabad, questioned how KCR can dismiss TSRTC employees without a formal order. “Moreover, the state is hiring private bus drivers in some places. We undergo a month’s training and only after passing an exam we start operating on roads," he claimed.

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