Exactly a month before the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) decided to go on strike, YS Jaganmohan Reddy implemented in Andhra Pradesh a long-pending demand to convert the 50000-odd employees of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) into state government employees.
Successive governments in united Andhra Pradesh had refused to do so and so has K Chandrasekhar Rao in Telangana after bifurcation in 2014. But Jagan’s decision led to hope among TSRTC employees that they could get KCR to grant the same.
It is this desire for better job security and raising their retirement age from 58 to 60, that drove the demand for the government takeover.
Which is why even trade unions considered close to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) thanks to their participation in the struggle for Telangana, are now part of the strike. That seems to have irked KCR because now they are on the same side as the Congress and the BJP. Politically, it also creates an issue for the TRS which has enlisted the support of the CPI for the Huzurnagar byelection as the Communist party has opposed the CM’s decision to sack 48000 employees.
The RTC in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are loss-making entities. While one view is that successive governments have done little to turn them around, the counter view is that RTC is meant to be a public service and should not be seen as an avenue to generate profits.
The latter is more important because even to help education of students in far-flung areas in rural Telangana and the safety of women in remote corners, access to a bus service is very critical. More often than not, these would not be routes on which profits cannot be generated but they serve an useful social purpose.
Does taking the RTC employees on the payroll of the government change life for the commuter? No. Will it make the TSRTC or APSRTC profitable? Highly unlikely. All it is expected to do is to benefit the employees. What is needed more importantly is to run the RTC more efficiently, looking at ways and means to cutting down wasteful expenditure.
But the fact that RTC loses big money cannot be blamed only on the corporation. In light of the flexible diesel charges, the RTC loses up to Rs 25 crore a day if the price goes up by one rupee and its fleet of 10400 buses. Who absorbs these losses?
Many of the other 26-odd demands cannot be dismissed lightly either. The RTC employees rightly point out that it is driving an ageing fleet, that women conductors in Hyderabad should be given duty charts that end the day before 9 pm. Such demands do need a sympathetic ear from the political establishment.
Having inadvertently played a part in creating this problem for Telangana, Jaganmohan Reddy is pitching in by ensuring more APSRTC buses ply to Telangana to ferry commuters during the Dasara season across the border.