The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) workers’ strike has entered its eighth day on Saturday, October 12. The employees and workers of the corporation have intensified their fight by continuing protests across the state. The workers, who were indiscriminately sacked by the government for demanding merger of TSRTC with the government and pay revision, are being supported by all trade unions, all opposition parties, and other bodies including teachers’ unions, electricity workers’ unions and students.
The K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR)-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government, had earlier this week sacked over 49,000 striking employees—almost all the employees and workers from managers to cleaners, except health and security workers—terming them as “self-dismissed” for participating in the strike that started on October 5.
On October 10, the government has also announced that it will recruit new employees as soon as possible and 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 on the supervision of the TSRTC and the remaining 20% will be handed over to private players under contract.
Also read: ‘TSRTC's Poor Performance Rooted in Years of Inaction by Govt’, Workers Continue to Strike
Despite the government’s regressive move of sacking which created panic in the families of the workers, the protests have only intensified. The workers, along with their families have been protesting in various forms such as rallies and dharnas in the premises of all the bus depots, bus stands and district headquarters across the state. All the workers’ unions including those earlier affiliated with TRS have formed a joint action committee (JAC) and are leading the struggle. Experts have termed KCR’s move of sacking the entire TSRTC workers as unconstitutional and are accusing him of creating all the panic.
The JAC is also joined by all opposition parties including Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party India (Marxist), Telangana Jana Samithi, Telugu Desam Party and Jana Sena and is planning to call for a state bandh on October 19.
Why workers are demanding TSRTC Merger with government
TSRTC merger with state government has been a longstanding demand from the corporation which was earlier promised by KCR himself, said Vilasgaram Thirupathi, president of Telangana Mazdoor Union (TMU). “In 2013, a state appointed committee had recommended the merger of the then Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). However, as the state got bifurcated, the demand was overlooked. Even the last pay revision was done in 2015, which was a result of a 8-day long strike by the workers,” he said..
“In 2018, when TSRTC workers’ unions gave a strike call, KCR convinced us to withdrew the call saying he is considering their demand and constituted an expert committee headed by chairman Nagaraju to make suggestions about how to strengthen our TSRTC. TRS came back to power for the second term but sidelined our demands once again.” Thirupathi told NewsClick. He alleged that KCR is trying to sell TSRTC when the workers are on roads.
Trade Unions including All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) have announced an action plan for the next ten days in support of the sacked workers, said V Ratnakar Rao, state general secretary, AITUC.
Speaking to NewsClick, Ratnakar Rao said that KCR is acting like a dictator and playing with the lives of workers. “Government delaying to agree with the workers is costing Rs 11 crore per day to the TSRTC. The state is witnessing a movement against the government and none of the TRS ministers have uttered a word,” he said, while participating in a silent protest in front of the TSRTC headquarters in Hyderabad.
Also read: Telangana ASHA Workers Stage Protest, Demanded Fixing of Salaries
Meanwhile, Telangana High Court on Thursday, while hearing a petition seeking orders to direct the striking TSRTC employees to resume their duties immediately, has asked the government to submit a detailed report on the crisis. The next hearing has been scheduled for October 15.
According to the Joint Action Committee, the TSRTC workers didn’t even get the salaries for the month of September. The committee said that the workers suffer even when their salaries are delayed by just 10 days.
Since 2013, the basic pay for an entry-level driver has been Rs 13,780, and for a conductor, it is Rs 12,610.
4 Dead Following Sacking of Employees
On October 10, D Kumaraiah, a bus driver in Chengicherla depot, died due to heart attack while protesting in Uppal, Hyderabad; another driver at Hyderabad Central University depot, Sheikh Khaleel Miya died due to a panic attack as he was concerned about his job; and Raghu, husband of Padma, who was working as a conductor in Hakimpet depot, fearing his wife was sacked from her job, died due to heart attack. The next day, Erukali Lakshmayya, who was working as a driver in Miyapur depot died due to heart attack.
According to reports, the government is considering to extend the Dussehra holidays in schools and colleges as public transportation is almost shutdown. Currently, the TSRTC top management has hired contract workers through which 20% of the buses are running apart from private bus services. However, the buses are charging inflated fares, according to local reports.
The TSRTC workers are determined to take forward their fight whose legitimate demands are supported by the other working class and opposition political parties.