A 55-year-old TSRTC driver died on Sunday (October 13), a day after he set himself on fire, even as the strike by the transport employees in Telangana entered the ninth day.
The TSRTC driver, who was identified as D Srinivas Reddy, died of burn injuries, according to hospital sources here. He was part of a group of employees who had been on a state-wide strike for the last nine days.
The driver had doused himself with kerosene and set himself ablaze near his house in Khammam, about 190 km from here, reportedly in protest against the government not agreeing to the demands of the striking employees. Reddy, who had suffered around 90 per cent burn injuries, was shifted to a hospital here on Saturday (October 12) night from Khammam and succumbed at around noon on Sunday.
However, police said they were investigating the reason behind his suicide.
A large number of striking employees of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation gathered near the hospital when news about Reddy’s death spread, but police at the spot whisked them away in police vehicles.
Protests also broke out in other parts of the city and outside the city, with employees raising slogans and holding the state government responsible for Reddy’s death.
The employees have been on strike over the last nine days, demanding a merger of RTC with the government and recruitment to various posts, among others.
Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy condoled the driver’s death and said that the incident has pained him very much. “Suicide is not the solution. Nobody should resort to such steps in future,” he said.
Kishan Reddy urged the Telangana Government to resolve the RTC strike issue amicably by holding talks with the unions. He also extended his condolences to the bereaved family.
Leaders of the opposition Congress and BJP in Telangana also condoled Srinivas Reddy’s death and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family members. Nearly 48,000 workers of employees and workers unions of TSRTC began an indefinite strike from October 5 on a call by the Joint Action Committee of TSRTC.
Also read: TSRTC unions bus strike enters second day
On Sunday, Telangana Panchayat Raj Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao alleged that a few political parties were provoking the union leaders and claimed that it was a “political conspiracy” against the government. “Congress or BJP did nothing for RTC employees. Did any BJP government in other states merge their state transport corporations? Parties should stop the dramas,” he said.
Minister for BC Welfare and Civil Supplies Gangula Kamalakar alleged that political parties were triggering the unions for their political gains. He cautioned workers not to fall prey to such vicious attempts and added that the government had never said it would privatise RTC.
The ministers further said that the government never promised to merge RTC with the government and it (merger of RTC) was neither the government’s policy nor was it in the party’s manifesto.
The JAC of TSRTC has given a Khammam bandh call for Monday, and Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said that his party supported the shutdown call.
Meanwhile, the union leaders appealed to striking workers not to resort to suicide and said that condolence meetings would be held on Monday (October 14) at all depots in the state.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Saturday had said that there was no question of having talks with the striking employees or taking them back. Rao also directed officials to restore bus services and if need be, recruit employees and utilise the services of
retired RTC and Police department drivers.
Also read: TSRTC bus strike enters fourth day
The government, he said, would not recognise the “illegal and unlawful” strike under any circumstances and there was no question of having any talks with those on strike. “The striking employees will not be taken back, come what may”, an official statement quoted him as saying.
Rao, who chaired a review meeting on the situation on Saturday, directed officials to pay salaries for the month of September to those who were not participating in the strike. He also said that the striking workers had blindly believed union leaders’ statements and had only themselves to blame for losing their jobs.
Supervisors were also dragged into the strike, which had never happened in the past, he said. Rao claimed that the union leaders were responsible for 48,000 employees losing their jobs. There was no scope of taking back those who abstained from duties, he said.
The Chief Minister also directed DGP M Mahendar Reddy to take steps to increase security cover at all RTC depots, book cases, arrest those indulging in unlawful activities and violence, and those trying to stop buses from plying.
The JAC had called for a state-wide bandh on October 19, even as the Government on Saturday extended the Dasara vacation till October 19, in order to not inconvenience students.