When the Telangana RTC unions went on strike, they presented 26 demands on the table. But what got highlighted the most was its demand to merge the RTC with the government, something that was rejected outright by K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Now the unions have blinked after 41 days of strike, pulling the merger demand off its list. That’s because the strike seems to be going nowhere.
The KCR regime dismissed 48000 employees in one stroke, did not shed a tear for the 27 employees who have had either because of a heart attack or committed suicide and threatened privatisation of 50 per cent of the 10400 buses-strong fleet. The government did not budge even when the High court suggested setting up a three-member committee of retired Supreme court judges to mediate in the issue, rejecting the proposal.
This is the longest ever strike in the history of the road transport corporation, either in Telangana or in united Andhra Pradesh. Did it achieve anything? Zilch.
The unions have lost out on their power to hold the government to ransom, the government has not been able to break the strike. Despite the CM giving a three-day grace time for striking employees to rejoin work, just 300-odd out of the 48000 paid heed to his call.
The people of Telangana have been the worst sufferers, having to make do with more expensive modes of transport. While the admirers of the CM may laud him for standing firm, the point is as chief minister, he is expected to resolve issues of the people. It is his duty to reach out, negotiate and hammer out a solution. But by refusing to engage, KCR thought he will send out a message to the employees that he cannot be shaken by threats. But in the bargain, what he has ended up showing is insensitivity to the problems of the common people of Telangana who use public transport.
Privatisation of the entire fleet is simply not feasible because no private operator will come forward to operate RTC at the present ticket rates. They would demand periodic hikes in keeping with the dynamic pricing of diesel, they would be much less enthusiastic to operate on routes that are not commercially viable.
The government needs to realise that bus transport has an element of welfare embedded in it. It cannot be a money-making exercise. The effort ought to be to make it a more efficient body. Better late than never, the CM should allow talks on the other 25 minor demands and try to get this strike called off at the earliest.