TELANGANA State Road Transport Corporation employees have been on strike since October 5, but there is no resolution in sight due to the government’s irresponsible stand and unilateral action. All opposition mass organisations, parties, and employees, teachers and workers’ unions have announced their support and solidarity. The protests have been continuing in many ways. The RTC Joint Action Committee has announced the future course of action. All parties, including the CPI(M), have agreed to participate in the programme in support of the strike and make it a success. Rallies, dharnas, sit-ins, human chains and silent demonstrations are going on in many places. Most of state-run buses remained off the roads. During the strike, six people have died. Driver Srinivasa Reddy died due to self-immolation in Khammam, whereas one worker hanged himself in Hyderabad. During the strike in Khammam, two people died.
All unions of RTC have been agitating for merger of RTC with the state government for the sake of security of job, reduction of tax burden, payment of dues from government, implementation of pay revision due from 2017 and on other issues. After the formation of Telangana, 7,000 workers retired and because of no fresh recruitment, the work load on employees has increased. Contractualisation and outsourcing increased. Because of dissatisfaction of workmen, all unions have given strike notices. But the government did not act in a responsible way. The committee of three IAS officers also held talks formally, but did not sincerely try to prevent the strike. The chief minister himself threatened to dismiss all the workers who would participate in strike. The festival season and convenience of the people was not considered by the government and the employees were forced to go on strike.
Even when the chief minister reviewed the strike situation, he did not try to resolve the issues but provoked the workers with threats of privatisation of RTC, calling the union leaders as blackmailers. The government knew that students and parents go to villages during the festival. The unions made the announcement that they will go on strike if issues are not resolved one month in advance. But neither the transport authority nor the government took any initiative to resolve the strike. The strike was declared as illegal by the chief minister unilaterally. Finally, he abolished the three-member committee.
PRIVATISATION OF RTC NOT BENEFICIAL TO PEOPLE
The RTC is incurring losses because of the policies of the state and central governments. The tax on RTC which was 5 to 14 per cent was enhanced to 28 per cent because of GST. The hike in diesel prices and central and state taxes imposed a burden of Rs 3,613 crore on the RTC. The MV tax is Rs 210 crore per year. In neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the increased cost of diesel is borne by the state governments. In Kerala, every year the government is supporting the RTC in a big way. RTC has been merged with the government in Andhra Pradesh. The RTC in Telangana on an average carries one crore passengers daily. Even if 1 per cent of the budgetary allocations is given to the RTC, it will get Rs 1,500 crore. If the state takes the burden of the enhanced taxes and concessions, the RTC will not be in losses.
The High Court of Telangana which is hearing the two sides has called on the state government to hold talks with worker unions and also appoint the managing director for RTC immediately. The court commented that wars are also being prevented by holding talks, why the government is not talking to the employees.
The government has failed to prevent strike and is responsible for the suicides of RTC workers. The CPI(M) Telangana state committee has demanded the government to take immediate steps to resolve the issue. The Left parties gave a call for statewide relay hunger strike on October 17. The strike is continuing and all parties and the RTC JAC have given a call for Telangana bandh on October 19.