With both sides unwilling to blink first, the transport department hasn't started bookings for Pongal.
Thirty seven-year-old Sion was on a two-wheeler when he was hit from behind by a government bus in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore district yesterday. A temporary driver was driving the bus as the transport workers continued to strike for the eighth consecutive day. He was one of the three people killed in accidents due to reckless driving since the strike began.
Several passengers had a lucky escape in Pudukkottai district when two buses collided head on. And again the temporary driver was reportedly at fault.
With Pongal season around the corner, Dasaradha is worried how he will travel to Andhra Pradesh's Nellore district to celebrate the festival with his family. He said, "We have advanced our travel by a day to avoid rush. But there are hardly any buses. And those that are available don't seem to be safe with all these temporary drivers."
A senior officer told NDTV, "We are concerned about public safety. That's why we allow only those with heavy vehicle licences to drive."
There are about 1.4 lakh workers in the state's transport department to handle a fleet of 22,500 buses. Transport workers are demanding salaries on par with drivers in other state government corporations. The unions want a 2.57 per cent hike, but the government, after 23 rounds of talks, has agreed for a 2.44 per cent raise. The state transport minister has ruled out further negotiations citing huge losses incurred by government transport corporations.
The officer added, "We incur a loss of Rs. 9 crore every day as we've not hiked tariff for years. We offer the cheapest travel compared to neighbouring states. The hike we've offered alone will cost an additional Rs. 1,000 crore a year."
With both sides unwilling to blink first, the state transport department hasn't started bookings to handle Pongal rush as the government wouldn't want to risk passenger safety by letting its fleet of 22,000 buses in the hands of temporary drivers.