By Krishna Saagar Rao
It’s unbecoming of a democratically elected Chief Minister of a state to indulge in oppressive hegemony over small employees of a quasi government corporation like Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC).
The only provocation for the chief minister of Telangana state K Chandra Sekhar Rao seems to be a legal strike of TSRTC employees, to pressure the government to consider their 26 demands. While employee unions are not necessarily justified on every demand they raise, it’s their legal right to present their demands. It’s the responsibility of the organization’s management to sit across the table, negotiate and resolve some or all of their demands amicably.
Surprisingly, what’s happening with TSRTC strike is that there’s no full-time management appointed by the state government since 3 years, so there’s no one to engage in any discussion with employees at the organization level.
It’s unimaginable, that an important corporation such as RTC, which transports over 95 lakh people every day across the state, has over 50,000 employees, over 10,000 buses and is a nerve center for rural & urban connectivity, is of such less priority for KCR government, that a Chairman & a Managing Director are not appointed for years.
So, when demands pile up, and there’s no possibility of talks between management & labour unions, with a 6 week notice TSRTC employee unions went on strike boycotting their duties. Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 and Trade Unions Act of 1926 have clear provisions for legal strikes of employee unions.
In a normal scenario, if there’s a legal strike executed by employee unions such as this one, state government should sit up and take immediate notice. It should urgently plan a reconciliation process to bring the striking unions to the table for talks at different levels, by deputing officers from different ranks in the absence of an statutorily appointed management team at the organization level.
However, CM KCR has quite abrasively and in an authoritarian manner warned the employees on the first day of the strike, that if they don’t report to work by the end of the day, they would be dismissed from their jobs instantly. He infact has acted on the warning same evening and announced that he has dismissed 48000 employees who were still on strike and didn’t heed to his warning.
With an after thought the next morning, KCR has coined a new word which the world never heard ‘self-dismissed’. He has announced that all the 48,000 employees have ‘self-dismissed’ themselves from jobs and KCR also declared they wouldn’t be paid the wages for the earlier month they have worked. Can KCR go any lower in pettiness than he already did ? Infact he further found a new bottom, in the consequent days of the strike.
It’s 27 days since the TSRTC employees went on strike. Almost 4 crore population of Telangana State are impacted in one way or another. Especially crores of common people whose livelihoods depend on public transport like farmers, small traders, small employees, students, senior citizens, poor people from small villages and hamlets.
CM KCR’s irresponsible and arrogant statements on total privatisation, complete liquidation of RTC, permanent termination of 48000 employees have played havoc with emotionally weak employees. Some have committed suicide and few died out of shock & cardiac arrest. Around 14 RTC employees died, but even these gruesome didn’t impact stone-cold KCR to think of a quick and amicable resolution. He continues his wrath on the small employees who are socially and economically poor till date.
KCR time and again talks of his stature as a Chief Minister and that he can’t involve in direct talks with RTC employee unions. However, the fact is clear that every single decision, action and statement regarding RTC employees strike is being made by KCR directly and not even through the Transport Minister nor the ad-hoc RTC management. They have neither any say in the matter, nor they have any clue of why KCR is doing, what he is doing.
The dismal manner in which KCR has been dealing with such a small crisis, exposes his small stature and incompetence to govern the state in the capacity of a Chief Minister. By taking the employee union strike as a personal prestige issue and acting vengeful on small employees of RTC, KCR has not just lowered his personal stature but also the stature of the role of Chief Minister.
KCR’s brazen tactics, his government’s misrepresentation of facts to the High Court, his utter lack of empathy to the common people’s inconvenience and sympathy to the woes of RTC employees raises massive suspicion on his actual intentions. KCR’s repeated threat of liquidation of RTC and privatising entire services certainly points at his eagerness to handover RTC and it’s thousands of crores valuable assets to few pet private enterprises.
It’s a certainty that the immediate future of Telangana state government, TRS party, and KCR are under serious threat of political instability. KCR’s future actions in dealing with RTC strike, will decide the degree of political churn in Telangana state.
(The author is the Chief Spokesperson of Telangana State BJP, an organizational strategist & a global leadership coach. Views expressed in this guest column are solely those of the author)