On the 26th day of their strike, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) workers organised a public meeting ‘Sakala Janula Samara Bheri’ in Saroornagar Indoor stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday, October 30. The meeting was earlier planned to be conducted in Saroornagar open ground with an estimated 5 lakh participants including the family members of the sacked 49,000 workers, but the state government denied permission. The Joint Action Committee (JAC) leaders then approached the High Court on October 29, which granted them permission for the meeting. However, the permission was granted for the indoor stadium which has a capacity to accommodate only a few thousand people.
Today, the workers and supporters gathered in tens of thousands outside the indoor stadium. According to local reports, hundreds of striking workers who were on their way to the meeting were also detained by the police.
The protest meeting has been supported by all students’ and teachers’ organisations, civil society groups and opposition parties in the state including Congress, Left parties and Bharatiya Janata Party.
According to the TSRTC union leaders, in the last 26 days, 15 TSRTC workers including drivers and conductors have lost their lives – 10 of them died by panic and heart attacks while another five killed themselves. Reportedly, four other family members of the striking workers have lost their lives by heart attacks, worried over the ongoing strike.
Also read: TSRTC Strike: KCR Says No Compromise, Workers Intensify Struggle
"CM K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) has tried to provoke the workers by making threatening statements that the government would privatise TSRTC but the workers did not bend to his comments as our demands are legitimate,” said Aswathama Reddy, while addressing the meeting in the stadium. He added that 19 people have lost their lives since the strike has begun and urged the striking workers not to be disillusioned.
Marking their protest, several TSRTC workers rubbed their nose on the ground (under the Nizam’s rule in Telangana, dalits were made to rub their nose on the ground as a punishment by feudal landlords) against the state government in front of several bus depots in Hyderabad.
Meanwhile, the High Court on October 29 has slammed the state government for misleading the court with incomplete details of the budgetary allocations to TSRTC. Furthermore, the court questioned, “Why the government can’t allocate Rs 47 crore that will be enough to fulfil four minimum demands of the striking employees of the state?” As the central government has a 31% stake in TSRTC, the court also ordered the Centre to respond in this matter and listed the next hearing on November 1.
Speaking at the meeting, Chada Venkateshwara Rao, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader said that KCR misled the whole state by putting forward wrong facts about TSRTC. “The High Court proceeding made it clear that KCR had lied to the state with regard to TSRTC. The workers have been participating in the strike in peaceful manner and their struggle will get justice,” said Venkateshwara Rao.
Earlier on October 24, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) held a press conference and claimed that the “end of TSRTC strike will be the end of TSRTC itself.” Also, he said that the new Motor Vehicles Act, 2019 has given the state government all power over the public transport and claimed that the privatisation of TSRTC is inevitable.
Also read: TSRTC Workers’ Strike Turns into State-wide Movement
The state bandh on October 12 called by TSRTC workers was successfully implemented with the voluntary participation of the people and the support from students’ organisations, trade unions, government employees, private transport workers and opposition parties.
As it is emerging, the unions are considering to follow the court directions with regard to the strike, even by putting aside their main demand of TSRTC merger with the government but are firmly united against the privatisation.