Hyderabad: With the indefinite strike by the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees entering its 22nd day on Saturday, the Corporation management has started talks with its employee leaders to break the impasse.
Acting on the direction of the Telangana High Court, the TSRTC on Saturday morning invited the Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is spearheading the strike to press for various demands and in the afternoon, began discussions to resolve the deadlock.
The talks failed to bring the impasse to an end as both the government and the JAC stuck to their guns. The bone of contention proved to be the issue of merger as the two parties refused to budge on the issue.
While the government is ready to talk on 21 demands, the JAC has vouched to stick to its 26 demands, including the demand for merger of TSRTC with the state government. The JAC expressed serious discontent against the officials for seizure of their cell phones and confining them to the house for the talks.
The JAC convener, Ashwathama Reddy, also said that they will agree for the next round of talks only if all 26 demands are considered.
The government had on Wednesday constituted a committee of TSRTC officials to look into the employees' demands, except that for the TSRTC's merger with the government.
The committee submitted its report to the government late on Friday. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao discussed the report with Transport Minister P. Ajay Kumar and officials. It was at this meeting that the Chief Minister directed the TSRTC to invite JAC leaders for talks.
Reddy had earlier said talks would be held on all the demands. He denied dropping the demand of merger.
The talks are being held two days before the next hearing of public interest litigations (PILs) in the High Court. At the previous hearing last week, the High Court had directed the government to hold talks with the striking employees.
The strike by nearly 50,000 employees began on October 5, but the government declared the strike illegal and refused to hold talks with the employees. After the expiry of the deadline on October 5 evening, the Chief Minister declared that only 1,200 employees remained in the state-owned transport entity.
KCR, as the Chief Minister is popularly known, said over 48,000 employees dismissed themselves by not joining duty before the expiry of the deadline. He threatened to deal firmly with those trying to disrupt bus services being operated by the TSRTC with the help of temporary employees.
The Chief Minister also directed officials to recruit more drivers and conductors on temporary basis and hire more private buses.
At the CPI office in Hyderabad, former MLA, K Sambashiva Rao, began "fast unto death" protest in support of the striking RTC workers. Rao hit out at KCR for dismissing the RTC workers for protesting.
CPI National General Secretary, Suravaram Sudhakar Reddy, lauded Rao's protest and took a dig at KCR for failing to resolve the RTC strike. He slammed the chief minister, stating that RTC is a public transport system, not a business entity.
The strike took a political turn when the entire Opposition extended support to the strike. The JAC has been staging protests across the state. It also called a state-wide shutdown last week.
Two employees also committed suicide during the protest, while some others died of cardiac arrest, allegedly due to depression caused by the job loss and non-receipt of salaries for September.
KCR on Thursday stated that the TSRTC has no money to pay salaries to its employees. He even remarked that the Corporation is finished and nobody can save it from shutting down. He blamed the union leaders for the situation and hinted that the government will go ahead with the privatisation of the Corporation.