Telangana RTC strike : Set aside your ego, think about the commuter

Let this be said. Both the Telangana government and the RTC unions do not have the interests of the commuters at heart. For 25 days now, both sides have been obsessed with that three-letter word : EGO. The one to suffer is the citizen of Telangana who has to either pay through his nose to travel by other means of transport especially in rural and semi-rural areas or trudge long distances. 

Telangana ministers who travel in 7-vehicle or even 24-vehicle superluxury convoys bought at taxpayer’s expense can never understand what it means to have a bus as your lifeline. One that holds the passport to your education, your job, your safety. The reality is that those who have risen to the top are so disconnected from the life of a daily bus commuter. They do not realise that the last 25 days have been akin to living on a much, much reduced supply of oxygen.

How would it be if these honourable ministers and MLAs were told they will now need to travel only by public transport?

With both sides hardening their positions despite more than ten cases of deaths due to suicides or heart attacks, the High court is frankly the only hope. And it has not taken kindly to the manner in which the government has stood on prestige without thinking about the people for who the RTC is meant – the Telanganite. It termed the government’s explanation of the funds granted to the RTC as a case of “financial jugglery” and a “fudge”. In other words, it accused the government of lying in order to show it owed nothing to the RTC. 

It is time the government understood that its first priority is to ensure the commuter is not put to inconvenience. Has it done so? No. By no means does it mean agreeing to every demand made by the RTC unions. But to have a sham of talks does not help resolve the stand-off either. 

The government is not a cash cow. Especially in these times of a slowdown in the economy and financial distress. The RTC unions will have to come down from their rigid position of insisting on a RTC merger with the government. Why can’t it discuss other demands that do not put a heavy financial burden on the state exchequer? What they are doing is to hold the employees to ransom by claiming to espouse their cause. 

Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao says his one signature will ensure 3000 private buses will hit the road. If such a move is aimed at improving the public transport scene in Telangana, let it be done. But one suspects it is being done more to show the RTC union leaders their place. That is also because KCR suspects the unions are being clandestinely supported and egged on by opposition BJP and Congress.

My heart goes out to the families of RTC employees who did not receive their September salary, when they had worked. Why? Because the government says RTC has no money to pay the salaries. What’s worse, all 48000 of them were dismissed in one go and now if any of them want to go back to their job, they will have to re-apply and join on the government’s terms and conditions. In short, the government has thrown them under the bus.

To make the employees and not the management, which is appointed by the government, responsible for the losses incurred by the RTC is unfair. At the same time, to expect a public service to make hefty profits like a private sector company when it has to run on routes which are not always profitable and often dictated by political and civil society demands, is also unfair. 

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