Nearly 50,000 workers of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) will return to work after a 52-day strike, a joint committee of employees' union said today. Union leaders have, however, warned against punishing or harassing the returning workers for their actions. Neither the state government nor TSRTC officials have responded to this announcement; this means there is, as yet, no word if the men and women, who were told by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao that they had committed an "unpardonable crime" and had "self-dismissed" themselves, will have jobs to return to.
Earlier this month the Chief Minister had declared the striking employees would not be allowed to return to work after the expiry of a November 5 deadline. Employees would solely be responsible for such a situation and should therefore decide whether to save their jobs or trouble their families, a press release said.
Tens of thousands of Telangana bus drivers, conductors and road transport corporation workers began a strike on October 5. They had a list of 26 demands, including the merger of the TSRTC with the government so they could become government employees. As a result of the strike many state-run buses stayed off the roads, affecting thousands during the festival season.
Chief Minister Rao, who was criticised for his hard-line stance, ruled out the merger (which was done in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh) and said his government "would not succumb to indiscipline and blackmailing tactics".
The strike became a major crisis for the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), with affected employees forced to scrimp and save during holidays like Diwali and Dussehra.
As the strike continued the employees indicated they might be willing to drop the demand to merge with the government. However, both the state and the TSRTC stood firm.
On Sunday the Telangana High Court refused to adjudicate on the issue, referring it to Labour Department instead. The court also said it had no power to stop privatisation of bus services in the state.
At least three RTC employees have committed suicide and seven others have died of a heart attack since the strike began.