New Delhi: Family members of the Karnataka State Road Transport Workers – in lakhs – banged thaalis (plates) outside the offices of tehsildars and deputy commissioners in protest against “government insensitivity” after an indefinite strike by the workers demanding revision of salaries entered its sixth day on Monday. However, the state government has declared the strike “illegal” and warned workers of “stern action” against them.
After the strike began on April 7, the BJP-led state government permitted all modes of private transport to cater to the transportation needs of common people. However, according to local news reports, citizens have been facing problems due to inflated prices and non-availability of public transportation facilities.
The majority of the 1.37 lakh employees of the four state-owned road transport corporations – Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North-East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), North West Road Transport Corporation (NWRTC) and Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) – are participating in the strike, demanding a revision of wages as per the sixth pay commission (starting January 2020).
The state government and KSRTC management have been firm on their stand that the salaries will not be revised. “We know how to face the situation. There is no compromise. Salaries of the employees who are on strike will not be released. The government will proceed to take stern action against employees who do not return to work and they will only have themselves to blame for their plight,” Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa reportedly said.
The management of the four STCs have dismissed over 350 trainees and employees for participating in and organising the protests. The managements have also withheld salaries of employees who did not come in to work.
“The stalemate between the workers and the government will only end through negotiations. They cannot simply threaten the workers and solve the problem,” said K. Prakash, leader of the state unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).
According to KSRTC League, the union leading the protests across the state, on Monday, workers and their family members protested in front of the offices of tehsildars and district commissioners and submitted memorandums detailing their demands.
Meanwhile, Opposition parties including the Congress and Left parties have joined the protests as well.
Sowmya Reddy, Congress MLA from Jayanagar, said that the ongoing strike is the second strike by the employees in the past six months. “Due to the strike, people are dependent on other modes of transportation such as autos, taxis, or cabs, which is alarming, given the risk of a rise in covid cases. Government can not afford to take risks in this sensitive issue.
Implementation of ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) is not at all the solution for the problems of the employees. It is time to serve them their rights (sic),” she said in a press statement.
The four corporations run a fleet of 26,000 buses. After the management threatened punitive measures, 2,663 buses reportedly began operats on Monday as a few employees returned to work.
The corporations have also warned the striking employees that requests for inter-corporation transfers will also be withheld if they do not return to work. “The government and officials are resorting to victimisation to threaten the striking protesters instead of resolving their long- pending demands,” said Prakash.
Instances of Violence
According to local reports, instances of violence have also been reported as sixteen buses have been damaged by protesters and unidentified persons.