New Delhi: After calling off their 52-day-long strike, when Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) workers went to their respective bus depots to rejoin work on Tuesday, the state police detained them, on directions from TSRTC Managing Director in-charge, Sunil Sharma.
Following this, hundreds of workers along with their family members began demonstrating across the state against the police crackdown and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government.
On November 25 evening, TSRTC Joint Action Committee (JAC) had called off their strike and asked the workers to rejoin work in order to save the properties of the corporation from privatisation. “The JAC will continue to function to save TSRTC and continue its fight against privatisation. Although, the workers have been urging the government to look into their demands since June 2018, we have been sidelined,” said Aswathama Reddy, Convenor, JAC. Declaring their strike as “historic”, the JAC also thanked other employee organisations and civil society members for supporting their struggle.
However, later Sharma told media that the legality of the strike was pending in the labour court and the workers could not rejoin work until the judgment was out. He then urged the state police to not allow the workers to enter the bus depots.
Meanwhile, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao met state governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and discussed privatisation of 5,100 bus routes currently under TSRTC, Telugu newspaper Eenadu reported. According to the report, KCR said the new Motor Vehicles Act had given the state government powers to privatise the road transport corporation, claiming that the workers’ strike had further deteriorated the finances of TSRTC.
The CM has called a cabinet meeting on November 28-29 to decide on the privatisation of bus routes and the fate of the workers’ employment.
Since the strike began, the government had hired temporary workers and had been running 2,000 of the total 10,000 TSRTC buses. According to news reports, during the 52 days of the strike, the buses operated by outsourced workers ran into more than 10 accidents.
On Tuesday, Sohini Saxena lost her life in a road accident when she was hit by a TSRTC bus in Banjara Hills in Hyderabad.
The Telangana government has come under criticism from all the Opposition parties for not even calling the striking workers for negotiations.
“While the 52-day-long strike was the beginning of their starting struggle, with the TRS government not allowing workers to join their work, the workers are now left out from thier final struggle,” Telangana CPI(M) committee said in a statement on Tuesday. It added that the “whole episode has made it clear how the state and central governments have been destroying the public transport system in the country. TSRTC strike has become an example of how any political party winning maximum seats would unleash authoritarianism on its own people.”
According to news reports, 19 TSRTC workers committed suicide since the strike began and five other workers died of heart attack.
While the strike began on October 5, the next day, KCR declared the strike as illegal and all the 49,000 workers who participated in it as ‘self-dismissed’. Later, the CM had given the workers a deadline to rejoin work by November 5. However, only some 350 workers joined. During the entire strike period, not once did the government call the workers for talks.