Let this be said upfront. There is little sympathy for the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees who have gone on strike in the middle of the festival season, just when lakhs of people from the state want to travel to visit their family and relatives for Dussehra. This is because the private operators – both buses and vans – who have stepped in to meet the demand, are reportedly fleecing customers, charging double and in some cases, even three times the regular fare.
While the trade unions obviously thought this was the best time to armtwist the Telangana government into meeting their demands, it has also shown them as anti-people. The fact that the employees have done little to prevent the TSRTC from bleeding while demanding better wages now, has not helped their cause.
Not many have forgotten that the eight-day strike in 2015 ended with the Telangana government giving the TSRTC employees a salary fitment of 44 per cent. The question that needs to be asked is whether services have improved in the last four years since the whopping payout, whether the commuter has gained as a result of the government giving in to blackmail and whether the loss-making TSRTC deserves such pampering.
KCR perhaps realises that the public sentiment this time is not entirely with the striking employees. Which is why the Telangana CM has taken a leaf out of the Jayalalithaa book and sacked 48000 employees.
In 2003, the then Tamil Nadu chief minister dismissed 1.76 lakh government employees who had gone on strike. The decision by the Iron Lady to take the employees head on killed the strike and eventually the Tamil Nadu government agreed to take back the employees on its terms. The reinstatement was subject to every employee tendering an unconditional apology as well as giving an undertaking that they will not thereafter go on strike. But even while softening a bit, the Jayalalithaa regime said it will not take back 2200 of those employees who had allegedly indulged in violence.
In Telangana too, KCR wants to recruit new employees after taking an undertaking from them that they will not go on strike. His intention is to purge the corporation of the trade unionist mindset.
Will this template succeed in Telangana, one cannot say. KCR will also bear in mind the political cost Jayalalithaa had to pay for her handling of the situation. In the 2004 Lok Sabha election that followed, the AIADMK did not win a single seat and the DMK-led alliance swept Tamil Nadu. Jayalalithaa also lost power in the 2006 assembly elections.