In a surprising move, the Telangana CM K Chandrasekhara Rao has announced the dismissal of over 48,000 employees of the state RTC as they had announced an indefinite strike. As per reports, CM Rao announced it after a meeting with state RTC officials late on Sunday evening.
After a high-level meeting with state RTC officials on Sunday evening, CM Rao announced that the Telangana State RTC now has only 1200 employees, including those who had not joined the strike and who had resumed their duties before 6 pm on Saturday. The TRS government had fixed the Saturday 6 pm deadline for employees to end their strike and resume their duties.
The Joint Action Committee,(JAC) comprising of all RTC employees unions had given a call for a state-wide strike for an indefinite period until their demands are met. From the early hours of Saturday, about 49,340 employees and workers had been on strike.
The JAC had a number of demands from the state government. It included a merger of the RTC with the state government, ensuring state government salaries and perks for RTC employees. Andhra Pradesh had done it earlier. This would have also enhanced the retirement age of the RTC staffers to 60 years.
The JAC had also demanded a salary revision of the staffers that has been pending since April 2017. They had also asked for fresh recruitments to reduce workload.
The state government, however, is not ready to heed to the demands. CM Rao has affirmed that the state government will not be blackmailed by the RTC unions. “There is no question of holding any negotiations with the removed employees and taking them back into the duties. They have committed a major crime by resorting to strike at a time when the RTC was incurring a loss of Rs 1200 crore and facing a debt burden of Rs 5,000 crore, besides suffering from ever-increasing diesel prices. Moreover, striking the work during the festive season is an unpardonable crime,” he has said.
KCR has also denied any merger of the RTC and has categorically stated that the government will now start fresh recruitments and will soon introduce private company partnership. Half the state RTC buses will be privately owned vehicles and they will be given permission to run as state carriers, he stated.
However, CM Rao has ruled out complete privatisation. On Monday, he stated that the state RTC will continue to have its identity holding the majority shareholder in public transport. Speaking to media, KCR also asserted that the 48,000 employees were not sacked, but they opted out of their own jobs when they did not obey the deadline.
The RTC employees have called the government’s decision ‘undemocratic’. The opposition parties too, have criticised the move. The BJP has said that It’s the government’s incompetence & escapist attitude, which led to the RTC employees strike. Congress has stated that the employees were only demanding what was promised to them.
In the immediate aftermath, the government has ordered that 2500 buses be taken on lease and 4114 buses to be given permission to operate as public transport. Authorities have been directed to restore normalcy within 15 days. CM Rao has stated that he hopes the RTC will become a profit-making entity within two to three years.