The 48,000 employees sacked by the Telangana transport department did not celebrate Dussehra this year because they have not been paid their salaries, they told NDTV on Tuesday. The sacked employees also declared themselves "really sad" with Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao's actions.
"They have not given salary yet for Dussehra. We are facing a lot of problems. We are not able to celebrate the festival and we feel really sad about the Chief Minister's attitude," Sujatha, who has worked with the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) for eight years, said.
She also reminded the Chief Minister that the employees' unions had played a key role during agitations for a Telangana state and said he had failed to keep promises made after coming to power in 2014.
"We participated in the Telangana agitation for a golden Telangana but he is now threatening to sack us. We are not going to be scared. We are ready to fight," she said.
Nearly 50,000 transport corporation employees were sacked a day after they refused to end a two-day protest and join work by 6 pm on Saturday.
A furious Chief Minister ruled out any negotiation with the employees and said they had committed an "unpardonable crime" by refusing to work during the festive season and at a time when the transport department was incurring a huge loss of Rs. 1,200 crore.
The employees, who went on strike from midnight on Friday, had a list of 26 demands, including the merger of the corporation with the government. The demands were refused, leaving the transport corporation and the Telangana government at odds with the employees caught in the middle.
"I am roaming on the streets (on Dussehra) because I cannot face my children," 44-year-old bus conductor Sridhar said.
"He himself (referring to Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao) said that after achieving Telangana, every home will get a government job... but now you are trying to take 50,000 jobs away and send 50,000 families to the street," Sridhar added.
"It is a big festival. None of us, elders or children, got new clothes. We are all tense. What the Chief Minister has done is not right. After all, it is Dussehra," Madhavi, the wife of a bus driver, said.
The Telangana Chief Minister has claimed the employees have dismissed themselves. He also said he intends to allow 20 per cent of the buses to be run by private operators with only 50 per cent of the 10,400-strong fleet retained by the transport corporation. This is a move towards privatisation that the unions have already opposed.