The impasse between the protesting employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) and the state government continued for the thirteenth day with neither of them showing any signs of softening their stands despite the high court intervention.
The Telangana High Court had on Wednesday directed the state-owned Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) to pay salaries for September to all the 49,190 employees by October 21. But the state government claims that only 1,200 employees are on its rolls and would get their salary. The 48,000 employees had self-dismissed themselves by refusing to rejoin duty, it says.
Even 13 days into the strike, only about 6,000 buses out of the 10,600 buses are on the road. The strike has affected not just office-goers, but also schools and colleges that have been forced to extend their Dasara vacation by a week. The educational institutions that were to reopen on October 10 will now open on October 21.
"We are requesting the government to allow classes at least for students sitting for board exams and competitive exams. They cannot play with the future of students," said a dean of a corporate college that has thousands of intermediate students enrolled.
Parents claim that the closure of educational institutions due to strike is putting undue preassure on students. "Why should students pay a price for the politics of the chief minister and the trade unions? Already we had so many student suicides last year after the intermediate exam results," asked a parent.
The strike took a serious turn on Monday when two employees of the TSRTC committed suicide after they did not receive their salary for September. Striking transport employees claim that four more employees have tried to end their life since the government dismissed them.
Opposition parties claim the public mood is turning into anger against Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao who has so far refused to hold talks with employees who have intensified their protests over a list of 26 demands, including a merger with the government.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) which had initially backed the TRS for the upcoming Huzur Nagar bypoll has withdrawn its support in the wake of the suicides.
Governor Tamilisai Soundarrajan has given a report to the centre and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the situation in the state.
State BJP leaders allege that the state government is trying to sell RTC land and properties that are reported to be worth Rs 80,000 crores. They also alleged the KCR government is using the strike to start privatisation of the corporation, a claim that has been denied by the government.
Meanwhile, striking transport employees have intensified their protests involving even their family members to put preassure on the government. In Nalgonda, 600 workers along with their families "begged" on the road and asked traders, auto drivers, farmers and others to support their cause. At the Musheerabad bus depot in Hyderabad, striking employees got their heads tonsured. At Osmania University and several other places, protestors tried to take out what they call a "shav yatra" (funeral procession) of the chief minister.
Students at Osmania University have also lent support to the protesters. Today, the students have called for a march to Pragathi Bhavan, the official residence of the chief minister. As a precautionary measure, the gates of the university have been closed on either side to stop free movement of vehicles and people from the campus.