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Tragic Turn to Telangana Bus Strike as Driver Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze, Colleagues Stage Protest

Tragic Turn to Telangana Bus Strike as Driver Dies After Setting Himself Ablaze, Colleagues Stage Protest

Following the death of the TSRTC driver, who had been on strike for a week, employees of the state's transport body protested outside the Apollo DRDO Hospital where he was being treated.

Khammam: A driver of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation, who set himself ablaze at his house near Khammam reportedly in protest against the government not acceding to the demands of the striking employees, succumbed to his burn injuries at a hospital here on Sunday.

Police said they are probing why the driver took the extreme step.

D Srinivas Reddy, working in the Khammam depot, who was part of the group of employees on a statewide strike died of burn injuries, said hospital sources. He had doused himself with petrol and set himself afire near his house on Saturday.

Khammam Commissioner of Police Tafseer Iqbal said that the situation in the district, where tension prevailed after the incident, was normal and peaceful.

Following the incident, tension had prevailed in the town with striking employees staging a demonstration at the hospital and shouting slogans against the TRS government and damaging window-panes of a hired bus.

Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees on Sunday protested outside the Apollo DRDO Hospital where the driver was being treated. The victim's family has alleged he was depressed over the state government's dismissive behaviour of the strike.

Reddy, who had suffered around 90% burn injuries, was shifted to a hospital here on Saturday night from Khammam and succumbed at around noon on Sunday.

As news about Reddy's death spread, a large number of striking employees gathered near the hospital, but police at the spot whisked them away in police vehicles. Protests also broke out in different parts of the city and other places, with employees raising slogans and holding the state government responsible for Reddy's death.

Employees and workers unions of TSRTC have been on an indefinite strike from October 5 across Telangana, demanding merger of the RTC with the government and recruitment to various posts, among others.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy condoled the death and said the incident has pained him very much. "Suicide is not the solution. Nobody should resort to such steps in future," he said, urging the Telangana government to resolve the strike issue amicably by holding talks with the unions. He also extended his condolences to the bereaved family.

Leaders of the opposition Congress and BJP in Telangana also condoled Reddy's death and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved family members.

Telangana Panchayat Raj Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao alleged that some political parties were provoking the union leaders and claimed it was a "political conspiracy" against the government.

"Congress or BJP did nothing for RTC employees. Did any BJP government in other states merge their state transport corporations? Parties should stop the dramas," he said.

Minister for BC Welfare and Civil Supplies Gangula Kamalakar alleged that political parties were instigating the unions for their political gains. He cautioned the workers not to fall prey to such vicious attempts and added that the government had never said it would privatise RTC.

The ministers further said the government never promised to merge RTC with the government and it (the merger) was neither the government's policy nor in the party's manifesto.

The JAC of TSRTC has given a Khammam 'bandh' call for Monday and Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said his party supported the shutdown call.

Meanwhile, the union leaders appealed to striking workers not to resort to suicides and said condolence meetings would be held on Monday at all depots in the state.

Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Saturday had said there was no question of having talks with the striking employees or taking them back. He had also directed officials to restore bus services and if need be, recruit employees, utilise the services of retired RTC and Police department drivers. The government, he said, would not recognise the "illegal and unlawful" strike under any circumstances and there was no question of having any talks with those on strike.

"The striking employees will not be taken back, come what may," an official release quoted him as having said.

Rao, who chaired a review meeting on the situation on Saturday, directed officials to pay salaries for the month of September to those who were not participating in the strike. He said the striking workers had blindly believed union leaders' statements and had only themselves to blame for losing their jobs. Supervisors were also dragged into the strike, which had never happened in the past, he said.

Rao said the union leaders were responsible for 48,000 employees losing their jobs. There was no scope of taking back those who abstained from duties, he said.

The chief minister also directed DGP M Mahendar Reddy to take steps to increase security cover at all RTC depots, arrest those indulging in unlawful activity and violence and those trying to stop buses from plying.

(With PTI inputs)

first published:October 13, 2019, 13:58 IST