The Punjab Roadways contract workers are up in arms against the state government over the non-fulfilment of their demands. On July 26, the contractual employees of PUNBUS suspended their services for two hours at nearly all bus stands across Punjab.
According to the protesters, the movement of roughly 200 buses (both public and private) was halted. The employees state that the state government's failed to fulfil its promises to regularise the contractual staff.
Gursewak, chairman of the Bathinda Deepu Pepsu Road Transport Corporation, told NewsClick, "We are working as contract workers for at least 15-20 years. Governments come and go, making promises that they never keep. We're having trouble making ends meet, but the government appears unconcerned."
The protesters allege that they are forced to work 14-15 hours per day, which is more than permanent employees yet they are being paid a pittance.
They also highlighted the rough time they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. "We live hand to mouth and were compelled to borrow money from shopkeepers and acquaintances during the pandemic since we had no savings. We are now in debt," one of the protesting workers said.
This is not the first time that they are protesting though. Last month, these workers had announced a three-day chakka jam over their long-pending demand for the regularisation of contractual employees accompanied by the truckers’ association who protested over the inflated diesel prices.
In addition to regularisation, a slew of demands have been raised by the protesting workers including the coverage of workers under the Punjab Pension Scheme, loan waiver of Punbus and allotment of Dearness Allowance to drivers and conductors.
Also read: Punjab Transport Workers Go on 3-Day Strike; Truckers Protest against Fuel Price Rise
It is pertinent to note that the petrol price has crossed the Rs 100 mark in Punjab, upsetting the public as well as transporters. The transporters have been demanding reduction of the excise duty and VAT on fuel prices. “The expenses have increased while the freight prices have gone down. And now, with the increase in the fuel prices, meeting their needs is difficult for the transporters. We want that the freight charges to be increased and the fuel prices to be reduced,” Amandeep Ghuman of Truck Operator Welfare Society, Mansa district, had told NewsClick earlier.
Furthermore, employees from several departments, including power, medical, teachers and others, have also been protesting against the state administration, demanding regularisation.
"This is oppression," said Gursewak, adding that they will continue protesting till their demands are fulfilled.
The protesting contract workers of Punjab Roadways have said that they will launch massive strike across Punjab on August 4 and 5, followed by a day-long protest on August 10.
"We have no other option but to protest till they don't hear us. We will keep protesting till our demands are met even if that means to suspend services for days. We are ready to do that," a protesting worker added.