The government and the JAC of striking employees have stuck to their stands.
HYDERABAD: The strike by employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (RTC) entered the fourth week this weekend. However, no solution is in sight as both sides—the government and the joint action committee (JAC) of striking employees—stuck to their stands on the 46 demands. The BJP national leadership is monitoring the strike and has decided to own it up and lead from the front to corner the ruling TRS.
Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), who chaired a Cabinet meeting on Saturday, discussed the situation arising out of the close to a month-long strike, but decided to go ahead with his plans to partly privatise the public transport corporation in a staggered manner. Details of the unbundling of the RTC would be placed before the High Court next week on 7 November.
The strike turned violent as an RTC driver Babu committed suicide in Karimnagar city on Thursday and his cremation turned into a jostle between the BJP leaders and the local police. BJP MP Bandi Sanjay, had become MP from Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat this May, who led the protest along with the RTC employees wanted to take the body in a procession in the city streets, but the cops objected to it.
When Sanjay tried to proceed with the procession, a police officer pulled him by his shirt which resulted in a major scuffle between the cops and the BJP and the RTC workers who turned up in big numbers. Sanjay later staged a sit-in on the streets and demanded action against the police officer, ACP.
After knowing of this incident, Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy called up Sanjay and collected details of the situation in Karimnagar. The funeral procession of the driver was attended by several other Opposition leaders.
However, the BJP appears to be keen on leading the agitation of RTC workers, numbering around 47,000, as it wants to emerge politically stronger in Telangana. Though the RTC workers had indirectly extended their support to the Congress in the just concluded Huzurnagar Assembly byelection, the party fared badly, losing the seat to TRS by 43,000 vote margin.
Moreover, the faction-ridden Congress is unable to throw its weight behind the strike and bend the KCR government. So, the RTC workers now want to take the help of BJP which is capable of highlighting their cause at the national level. “We want the BJP’s leadership to highlight our strike at the national level and expose the KCR government’s anti-workers stand,” said Ashwathama Reddy, convener of RTC JAC.
BJP’s state unit president K. Laxman rushed to Delhi on Saturday to brief both party working president J.P. Nadda and national president Amit Shah on the month-long strike in the public transport sector as well as suicides of around half-a-dozen drivers and conductors of the RTC in the last one month. “Our national leadership is worried over the situation,” said Laxman before leaving for Delhi.
The BJP ruled Central government has some stakes in RTC of Telangana as it has some equity of around 13% right from its inception in 1950s. However, the state government has failed to collect the equity share of the Centre from time to time as it defaulted on its own share since mid-1990s. But, the Centre is fully empowered to intervene in the affairs of TSRTC.
When the issue of the Centre holding some stake in the RTC came up before the High Court on Thursday, the additional solicitor general who appeared on behalf of the Government of India assured the bench that he would get back with more details next week. The HC wanted to know the mind of the Centre on the ongoing strike in RTC of Telangana.
The BJP apparently is not ready to back the KCR government’s plans to divide RTC into three separate corporations—one for the city and two for north and southern districts and also to issue around 5,000 permits to private bus operators to meet the needs of interior areas people. Chief Minister KCR wants to dilute monopoly of RTC in rural areas too.
As the Chief Minister is quoting the recently amended Motor Vehicles’ Act 2019 which empowers the states to issue permits to private operators, the BJP wants to take him on politically. “We as a political party have right to oppose the privatisation of routes and division of RTC into three corporations. The Centre will definitely object to the Chief Minister’s plans,” Laxman said.