The Telangana government on Saturday ruled out any further talks with the striking employees of the Road Transport Corporation (RTC), though the employees’ union offered to drop their main demand of merger of the corporation with the state government as a pre-condition for talks.
Principal secretary (transport) and in-charge managing director of RTC Sunil Sharma submitted a counter-affidavit in the state high court stating that the situation in the corporation had reached an irreversible stage.
On the announcement of the Joint Action Committee of the Telangana RTC unions that they would drop the demand for merger of RTC with the state government for now, Sharma said there was no guarantee that they would not raise the demand again in future.
“They said they were setting aside the demand for merger only temporarily but not completely. In future, they may raise the issue again and the situation would come back to square one. So, there is no question of holding any talks with them,” he said.
He said even if the RTC workers come forward to return to their duties unconditionally, it would be difficult for the management to take them back into service as the things had gone too far and the situation had become irreversible. “We shall wait for the directions from the high court in this regard,” he said.
He told the court that the indefinite strike taken up by the RTC employees was illegal as per the Industrial Disputes Act. “There is no need to issue any specific notification declaring the strike as illegal. As per the act, the moment they went on strike, it had become illegal. The unions did not wait even till the labour department considered their demands,” the principal secretary said in the affidavit.
Meanwhile, the strike by the RTC employees had entered 43rd day on Saturday and the JAC called for a “bus roko” as part of the agitation. In several districts, the agitating RTC employees blocked the bus depots and prevented the temporary drivers and conductors from operating the services.
The police, however, took the agitating leaders into custody and ensured that the bus services were operated without hurdles.
In Hyderabad, the police imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC up to 500 metres around each bus depot in the city, as well as at the Bus Bhavan in Hyderabad.
The police arrested several JAC leaders, including P Raji Reddy, and confined JAC chairman E Ashwathama Reddy to his house at B N Reddy Nagar.
When the police came to his residence early in the morning, Ashwathama Reddy locked himself up in his room and announced that he was launching an indefinite fast. He declared that he would continue the fast till the government call him for talks on the demands of the RTC workers.
Hundreds of RTC employees flocked to Reddy’s residence and raised slogans against the government. The police department deployed a large number of police personnel to prevent any untoward incident.
Reddy told reporters that the agitation would continue till the government resolved their demands through negotiations. “We have come down a step and dropped the demand for merger of RTC with the government only to prevent further suicides by our employees. But the government is still adamant on its stand,” he alleged.
He requested the ministers and other public representatives to bring pressure on chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to initiate the dialogue process. “If KCR has any concern for the employees and their families, he should call us for talks,” he said.
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