Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Sunday (October 6) said that the striking employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) who did not join their duties before deadline, which was 6 PM on Saturday, will not be taken back.
The indefinite strike by around 48,000 employees and workers’ unions of the TSRTC began on Friday midnight across the state on a call given by the corporation’s Joint Action Committee (JAC), demanding a merger of the RTC with the government and recruitment to various posts, media reports said.
The Chief Minister rejected the demand for the merger after chairing a high-level review meeting, which was attended by Transport Minister P Ajay Kumar and senior officials, an official release said.
Rao has ordered that normal RTC operations to be restored within 15 days. He also said that new employees should be hired soon and they should give an undertaking that they would not join any trade unions.
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However, the agitating workers have not received any dismissal or suspension notice from the government or the management of RTC so far, clarified Telangana Mazdoor Union president E Ashwathama Reddy.
He added that if necessary, the trade unions will challenge the state government’s decision to dismiss the striking employees legally and move the court accordingly. “There are laws in this country. We have been appointed as per rules. They cannot remove us just like that,” he was quoted as saying PTI.
The government release further said that it was not up for any further talks with the striking unions. The stir had entered its second day on Sunday with buses of the state-run TSRTC staying off the roads, affecting thousands during the festive season.
Rao declared the indefinite strike as illegal and also directed the officials to hire 2,500 private buses to make up for the shortfall of public transport. It was also decided that 50% of the buses run by the RTC will be privately owned, the release said.
He said that the RTC is incurring losses to the tune of ₹1,200 crore and has ₹5,000 crore debts coupled with the ever-rising diesel prices. In such a bad situation, he said, there is no question of any compromise with those who are resorting to an unlawful strike that too during the festival season.
“They have committed a grave mistake. Under no circumstances, the RTC will be merged with the government and the government will not have any talks with those who went on strike,” the Chief Minister was quoted as saying in the release.
He added that his government is of the firm opinion that there should a permanent end to “blackmail tactics, indiscipline and actions that often create headaches.”
A committee formed under the chairmanship of senior IAS officers Sunil Sharma and Sandeep Sultania will look at all these issues and submit its proposals on Monday, the release added.
“RTC should earn profits. It should be made into a profit-making organisation. People should not suffer under any circumstances. Profits should also be made from the RTC cargo service,” the release quoted the Chief Minister as saying.
In a related development, a house motion petition was filed by a student of Osmania University before the Vacation Bench of the Telangana High Court seeking directions to declare the strike illegal and to direct the unions to resume services as citizens were facing inconvenience on account of the strike.
The court was informed by the government counsel that alternate arrangements have been made and more buses were also being engaged to ensure that passengers do not face problems due to the strike.
The bench directed the state government to file a report on October 10 about the arrangements made. It also ordered to serve notices on two RTC unions and adjourned the matter to October 10.
TSRTC JAC chairman Ashwathama Reddy said their agitation will continue till their demands are met by the government. Raising slogans against the state government, members of employees and workers unions took out protest rallies in different districts on Sunday.
The union leaders said they would hold a day-long fast on Monday in Hyderabad and warned that the agitation would be further intensified.
(With inputs from agencies)