Chennai: The Madras High Court has ordered the transport staff to call off their strike and rejoin work immediately as thousands of commuters were left stranded all over the state on Friday. Only 3,500 of the 22,500 buses were plying as 12 out of 26 transport unions announced an indefinite strike on Thursday evening, demanding a pay hike.
A large number of people queued up at bus stops and unprecedented crowds were also witnessed at all railway stations as commuters were caught off guard. Taking advantage of the situation, auto drivers, too, started overcharging passengers at several places.
A senior citizen, who had been waiting for a bus at the T. Nagar bus depot for over an hour, told News18, "The state government should resolve the issue at the earliest. They don't care about people. They don't understand the difficulties we face when there is no public transport. We don’t know what to do. We are stranded."
There were 11 rounds of talks between the state government and the transport unions but the two sides failed to come to an agreement. While the unions demand a 2.57% wage hike, the government was only willing to offer a 2.44% hike. Chief Minister Edapadi K Palaniswamy also met the Transport Minister to discuss the crisis.
Many college students also slammed the government for failing to control the situation. “We have our exams starting tomorrow. We are waiting at the bus terminus for an hour. Though, buses are plying from here, it is just one route that the buses go to and no single bus is plying to other destinations. Even trains are over-crowded and we are not able to use public transport in the city today," said a student.
Coimbatore district was the worst affected because of the strike, while minimal impact was seen in Salem as private players stepped in to fill the void. “We have 25 buses that are operational. We have buses playing from Koyambedu to Avadi, Sriperumbathur, Kelambakkam and we are not charging people today as many are stranded and looking for ways to commute," said Sultan, Manager of PRR Travels.
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan urged the government to initiate fresh talks with the transport unions and cede to their “just” demands. "I kindly request TN Govt to hold talks with transport corporation workers to avoid hardships of the general public and also look into the just demands of the workers. This will be the biggest gift the govt can give for Pongal festival," he tweeted.