On October 19, the 15th day of the strike of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) workers, students’ organisations, trade unions, government employees, private transport workers and opposition parties participated in the state-wide bandh (shutdown) called by the transport workers. Hundreds of protesters across the state have been indiscriminately detained by the state police, amid forceful crackdown.
The dawn-to dusk bandh has hit normalcy across the state as protesters held rallies, public meetings, various forms of dissent demonstrations resounded with slogans against the state government and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR).
Uber and Ola driver unions joined the bandh alongside private transport providers including autos and taxis. Small shopkeepers to big businesses have voluntarily kept themselves away from their daily routine and supported the protesters.
On Friday, the Telangana High Court expressed displeasure with the government’s way of tackling the crisis and has directed the government and TSRTC Managing Director Sunil Sharma to negotiate with the striking unions. The bench, comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy, asked all parties to keep in mind the agonies of the common man before going to negotiations and reach an amicable solution to the issue at the earliest. The next hearing is scheduled on October 28.
Also read: ‘TSRTC's Poor Performance Rooted in Years of Inaction by Govt’, Workers Continue to Strike
According to a counter petition filed by Sunil Sharma, from 2014 to September 2019, the state government has allotted Rs 4,253 crore to TSRTC, whereas from 2009 to 2014, in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, Telangana's RTC share had been only Rs 712 crore. Furthermore, the petition stated that the government under TRS has increased the salaries by 67%, although the TSRTC has been incurring losses of Rs 1,200 crore per year.
The main demands of the TSRTC Joint Action Committee, a joint platform of all the unions includes the merger of the corporation into government, revision of salaries, medical reimbursement for retired workers and utilisation of Provident Fund in cases of emergency among others.
During the bandh, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) [CPI(ML)] leader Pothu Ranga Rao’s thumb was dismembered when it got caught in the doors of the police van while he was being forcefully pushed in the van.
The protest rally in Hyderabad led by Left parties including Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] and Communist Party of India (CPI) has been stopped by the police who have subsequently taken the leaders including CPI(M) state secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram into custody.
According to sources, police have arrested peaceful protesters belonging to Centre of Indian Trade Unions, Democratic Youth Federation of India, All India Trade Union Congress, Students’ Federation of India, All India Students Federation and Telangana Vidyarthi Sangam, along with dalit and adivasi leaders from all the towns and cities in the state.
Opposition parties have demanded the government to immediately begin negotiations with the workers and settle the issues of the workers. Congress, Jana Sena and BJP have held bike rallies in various parts of the state.
TSRTC workers have organised mass lunch for protesters on the roads of Nalgonda.
In the last 10 days, two TSRTC workers have killed themselves while two others have escaped death after attempting suicide. Four persons have died of heart attack who were depressed over losing their jobs.
Also read: TSRTC Workers’ Strike Turns into State-wide Movement
The strike which started on October 5 has intensified after CM K Chandrashekar Rao ruled out negotiations with the striking unions and had announced the total staff of 49,000 workers as ‘self-dismissed’. Civil society, mass organisations and opposition parties have criticised KCR for his authoritative attitude in dealing with the legitimate demands of the workers.