November 10, 2019

A Significant Strike Struggle

THE strike by the workers of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) has emerged as one of the most significant struggles against privatisation.  48,000 employees of the TSRTC have been on an indefinite strike for over a month, from October 5.  The unity and determination of the striking workers in the face of brazen threats by the chief minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, police repression and victimisation have been remarkable. 

The workers went on strike demanding merger of the RTC with the government, pay revision, recruitment to various posts among other demands.  The demand for merger of the corporation with the government was also meant to stave off any move by the government to privatise road transport.

Immediately after the strike began, the chief minister announced that all the employees would be dismissed if they did not report to work by October 6.  Having failed to break the strike, the chief minister announced after the cabinet meeting on November 2 that 5,100 routes would be given to private operators. He further threatened that if the workers did not report to work by November 5, the rest of the routes will also be privatised. 

The strike has evoked widespread support.  All opposition parties, trade unions and other mass organisations have come out in support of the striking workers. There was a statewide bandh called by the road transport unions on October 19, which led to a total shutdown.  The CPI(M) and the Left parties have been actively mobilising support for the strike by holding rallies, dharnas and demonstrations.  There have been solidarity actions in various states by road transport unions and other trade unions with the Telangana striking workers. 

The Telangana road transport workers strike is an indication of the growing resolve of the working class to oppose privatisation especially of basic services like public transport.  Earlier, in October 2018, the Haryana state transport workers had gone on a 17-day strike against the proposal of the BJP state government to take on 700 private buses.  This strike too had found widespread support. 

Modi government has embarked on a reckless privatisation drive.  The privatisation spree encompasses all sectors – railways, defence production, coal mining, oil (BPCL) and the financial sector.  This privatisation drive has to be met with the united resistance of all sections of the working class and the working people.  The privatisation drive can be halted only through sustained struggles of the working class along with the widest mobilisation of public opinion. 

The Telangana road transport workers struggle has shown the way. 

(November 7, 2019)