New Delhi: The arrests of employees of state-owned roadways corporation in Haryana during the recently concluded two-day nationwide general strike has drawn flak from numerous unions in the State, with the latter condemning the BJP-JJP government for “unleashing repressive measures” against the striking employees.
As many as five Haryana Roadways from different districts across the State have been arrested, Sarbat Singh Punia, a leader of the joint forum of 10 roadways employees' unions, told NewsClick on Friday. "Apart from that, FIRs have also been registered against the roadways employees at many places," he said.
Condemning the move, Punia added that a joint meeting of roadways employees' unions had been called on April 2. "We will decide the future course of action in that meeting. The roadways employees will not tolerate the oppressive attitude of the government officials."
According to a State government statement released on Wednesday, a Haryana Roadways bus driver was allegedly garlanded with shoes. At the same time, a conductor was heckled by the striking bus employees at Sirsa district's Dabwali as the former refused to participate in the nationwide strike called by the 10 central trade unions.
According to the statement, state Transport Minister Mool Chand Sharma said an FIR had been registered on the complaint of the driver and the conductor.
Public transport services were affected in Haryana for two days – on March 28 and 29 – as the Roadways employees came in support of the nationwide strike and staged a protest against the "anti-worker" policies of the Central government.
Among others, the employees also protested against the ‘kilometre scheme', under which a fleet of buses on identified routes are outsourced to private bus operators. Under the scheme introduced in 2018 to ostensibly bridge the gap between the supply and demand of passenger buses in Haryana, the private operator is paid by the roadways department on a km-by-km basis.
They also demanded the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme.
Punia, who is also the general secretary of Haryana Roadways Workers’ Unions, told NewsClick on Friday that the incidents that took place during the strike action were “unfortunate.” “However, what the government is doing now only shows that they are upset by the successful strike and have filed FIRs to harass the employees,” he said.
On Thursday, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) condemned the Manohar Lal Khattar – led state government for "unleashing repressive measures" against the Haryana Roadways workers. "Well before the strike, the State Govt started issuing a threat of dire consequences and building hurdles to dissuade and prevent the roadways workers from joining the strike action. Haryana Roadways workers, quite consistent with their fighting tradition, joined en masse in strike action on both days, rendering all attempts of the State Govt to break the strike an absolute failure," Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU, said in a statement.
Satish Sethi of Sarva Karamchari Sangha (SKS) – Haryana condemned the State government for "not taking lessons" from the farmers’ protest and the ongoing state-wide strike of the Anganwadi workers and helpers in the State.
“Both of them – farmers and Anganwadi workers – faced the vindictive attitude of the Haryana government. Roadways employees are now facing the same," Sethi said, adding that this is also an attempt by the government to "divide" the joint forum of the roadways employees' unions.
Prompted by the fear of the eventual "privatisation" of the State's bus carrier, the roadways employees' union came together under the umbrella of a common platform only this year to "strengthen" their struggle. Sethi of SKS – Haryana told NewsClick that this development didn't go down well with the state government, which is looking to "hand the Haryana roadways to the private bus operators."
On Wednesday, state Transport Minister Sharma alleged that the employee unions are spreading rumours and misinformation about the privatisation of the Haryana Roadways.
On Friday, rejecting the allegation, Punia said: "In past seven years, the number of buses in the state roadways fleet has reduced from 4,250 to 2,600. Nine hundred more buses will be rendered useless by the end of this year. If the number of roadways fleet continues to be reduced at this pace, the public sector undertaking will eventually be privatised one day," he said, adding a need to add 10,000 buses to the roadways fleet.