Sacked Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) workers, joined by their families, trade unions, other workers’ associations and opposition political parties, have intensified protests across the state, but disillusion is haunting them, as six persons have died—four succumbed to heart attack and two workers committed suicide, all depressed over the fate of their livelihood source.
On Sunday, Srinivas Reddy, a bus driver from Khammam, died in Apollo DRDO hospital in Hyderabad after he immolated himself. On the same day, one bus conductor, Surendra Goud, committed suicide by hanging himself at his residence in Hyderabad. In another separate incident, a protesting driver in Narsampet tried to immolate himself, but was stopped and rescued by policemen and co-workers. Last week, four people had died—three drivers and husband of a female conductor—all due to heart attack; they were reportedly depressed after being sacked.
Meanwhile, as the protest entered its 10th day on Monday, the joint action committee, formed by various workers’ unions, met the state governor, Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan, and urged her to intervene in the matter.
TSRTC employees and workers launched a full-fledged strike on October 5 demanding that the government merge TSRTC with the government—a long-standing demand in the state—and urged the government to revise their salaries. But the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government under Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (popularly known as KCR) sacked 49,000 workers (almost all the workers except for the top management, health and security staff), for joining the strike. On top of this, workers didn’t even get their salaries for the month of September.
Protesting workers and trade unions told NewsClick that their demands had earlier been accepted and an expert committee, formed under the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government, had proposed the merger of the road transport corporation with the government.
Teachers, electricity workers, students, revenue department employees, private transport workers have also extended their support to the protests across the state.
What is the government saying?
CM KCR on October 12 said that there is no question of further talks with the protesting workers. “The striking employees will not be taken back, come what may,” an official statement quoted him as saying. Meanwhile, the state ministers, who had kept mum till Saturday, gave separate statements when the protests were intensified after Srinivas Reddy’s death.
State ministers Koppula Eshwar, Gangula Karanakar and Niranjan Reddy, in separate statements, claimed that a few workers’ leaders are in cahoots with the opposition parties and are “playing with the lives of the workers”. They said that the strike was started for the political benefits of a few persons ahead of the TSRTC union elections.
On the other hand, the state government has released a notification for the recruitment of temporary workers. Currently, according to local reports, some 20% of the TSRTC buses are being operated, at inflated fares, by outsourced workers.
Furthermore, the government also proposed a trifurcation of the TSRTC—50% of the buses will be exclusively under the corporation, 30% of the buses will be taken ‘on hire’ and will run under the supervision of the TSRTC and the remaining 20% will be handed over to private players under contract.
“The statements of KCR and his ministers is further depressing the worried workers,” said Kodandaram, Telangana Jana Samithi party founding president, on Sunday.
Congress and Left parties demanded that the government immediately release ex-gratia to the families of the workers who have committed suicide.
Osmania University Students Join the Protest
Several students’ bodies in Osmania University joined the protests in support of the TSRTC workers. In a statement, the students’ bodies said that the transport workers were at the forefront during the Telangana state formation movement. Terming KCR’s action ‘dictatorial’, protesters have called for a bandh on October 19 and gherao to the chief minister’s office on October 21.