The deadlock between the employee unions of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation and the K Chandrasekhar Rao government continued on Monday as the workers refused to call off the strike which began Friday night over a slew of demands including merger of the corporation with government, maternity benefits for women workers and hike in salaries among others.
In a shocking move, K Chnadrasekhar Rao had said that the government will not take back nearly 48,000 employees who refused to join work by 6 pm on Saturday. He had said, “As it is there are less than 1,200 employees in the RTC,” indicating that those who do not report for duty before the deadline, would be losing their jobs.
He added, “The strike by RTC now is illegal, irresponsible and based on wrong thinking. In states like Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Manipur, there are no RTCs. They are there nominally in Bihar, Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. After Karnataka, large number of buses are being run in Telangana. When we are taking care so well, is there any need for them to go on strike?”
However, the leaders of jthe oint action committee alleged that Chief Minister Rao was peddling misinformation about the financial condition of the corporation. V Srinivas Rao, co-convenor of the joint action committee told NewsClick, “CM Rao is making false statements about the condition of TSRTC. He said that the corporation is under a debt of Rs 5,000 crore; whereas, the actual debt is of Rs 3200 crore. We are only demanding that the government should pay us the margin between the operating cost and actual cost.”
Tracing the roots of the crisis, Rao said that the problems of the corporation started building after the Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014. He said, “We saw years of inaction after K Chandrasekhar Rao was chosen as the CM. For example, We had 57,000 employees in 2015, which has now reduced to 49,000. We currently need 8,000 employees. Similarly, we have a fleet of 10,460 buses, out of which 4,000 buses are in bad shape. Additionally, we need 3,000 more buses. We used to have loan of Rs 1,974 crore, which has swollen to Rs 3,200 crore. We have paid Rs 3,491 crore as loan and interest over the last five years. We did not even receive our dues worth Rs 2,200 crore for concessions to students and others. We spent Rs 2,809 crore on the concessions, but the government only paid us Rs 649 crore. How do you think the corporation will survive under this condition?”
Another reason behind the crisis is believed to be non-fixation of cap over diesel expenses. Rao said that the Tamil Nadu government has fixed a cap to the price level of 2011 standard where some portion of the fuel cost is taken care of by the government. In Telangana, it is completely missing.
Transportation Expert Sai Chaitanya said that the government cannot escape its responsibility. He told NewsClick, “The union was raising their demand from the first week of September. So, it cannot blame the workers’ unions.” To the question of proposal of running private buses, Chaitanya emphasised that the private transportation cannot be a solution for a large state like Telangana. He said, “Public Transport empowers the economy. It helps students access education, patients medical healthcare, locals to their regional markets. This cannot simply be left to the private vehicles. Indeed, it is also helping governments in curbing climate change.”