HYDERABAD: In the battle between Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employees who are on strike which entered the 37th day on Sunday and the state government, citizens of Telangana have been suffering due to a paralyzed public transport system.
The 'Chalo Tank Bund' protest on Saturday by the TSRTC Joint Action Committee with support from opposition political parties and civil society groups, witnessed violent clashes.
While a large number of protesters were injured during to the lathi charge by police, many police personnel were also injured as some of the protesters resorted to stone-pelting.
The close to 48,000 employees of TSRTC did not join back services despite multiple warnings from the state government.
Recently, the state government had warned that all of them will be terminated unless they join the service by November 5 midnight, following which only around 400 employees joined back.
However, amid the clash between TSRTC employees and the state government, lakhs of commuters are bearing the brunt day in and day out.
With both sections of the strike refusing to budge from their stand, at least 33 lakh passengers who are estimated to be using TSRTC buses as a regular mode of transportation just in Hyderabad, have been left fending for themselves since the strike began on October 5.
"Initially, I tried to catch a bus from Moosapet to Abids to travel for work. However, every day they would turn up at a different time forcing me to wait at least 45 minutes at the bus stop. So, now I ask my son to drop me on his vehicle as I was getting late to work every day", said Vijaya John, a teacher from the city.
Several others who have no other means of travel but rely on the TSRTC buses are risking their lives every day.
Few videos have been posted on Twitter by users that show young adults standing even on the bus bumper and holding onto the bus's walls and undertaking risky journeys.
"In the morning it is easier to wait through till I get a bus, as teachers understand our plight. However, in the evening, we have no option but to board buses in a risky manner as there is fear that it maybe the last bus because now there is no fixed schedule of buses. It is like a do or die situation now", added Harsha V, a college student from the city.
However, TSRTC and Transport department officials who are in charge of arranging private drivers for TSRTC, say there is little they can do.
"While in districts the response from private drivers is good to drive the buses on a daily wage basis, in Hyderabad it has not been the case. Only a few are turning up because the money offered is not sufficient. Bus drivers are a skilled group so it is difficult to even find the right people and train them in a short period, as part of a stop-gap arrangement", said an official from Transport department.
The unions are harping on this growing anger and trying to mount pressure on the government to heed to their demands of holding negotiations on 26 demands they have listed out.
"The High Court has already exposed that the government has failed in providing alternate arrangements sufficiently. This government is refusing to see the suffering of common man and TSRTC employees. If they really cared for people they should have called us for negotiations on each of the 26 demands and given us some assurance of resolving them", added Thomas Reddy, TSRTC JAC leader.
However, the government appears to be in no mood of bowing down to the pressure. "TSRTC has had a monopoly in the state that is precisely what the CM intends to break. Privatisation alone can help break this monopoly and give seamless services to the people, " noted a senior official from Transport Department.