HYDERABAD: There is no silver lining, not as yet, to the dark clouds of uncertainty hovering over TSRTC employees’ strike. On top of this, the TSRTC muddle is becoming more and more complicated with each passing day.
That the strike would be a protracted battle became clear after the State government sent out strong signals that it was prepared to knock the doors of Supreme Court if it does not get a verdict in its favour in the High Court. This means that the strike has turned into a prestige issue for Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who appears determined to have his way, come hell or high water.
Adding a new dimension to the imbroglio, the Centre has argued in the High Court that it had not given any clearance for bifurcation of APSRTC and therefore it does not recognise the existence of TSRTC. The Centre has 33 per cent stake in the APSRTC and without its clearance, no major decisions including those relating to privatisation of bus routes could be taken, the Centre contends.
The Centre’s counsel told the court that TSRTC was functioning as a temporary arrangement that the Centre has no liability for the corporation since it does not exist.
It is the Centre’s contention that TSRTC is only a myth and that for all practical purposes APSRTC still exists is something that has made the issue more convoluted. The question that is doing the rounds is who is the boss of the corporation owned by both AP and Telangana, whether it is KCR or Jagan Mohan Reddy when it comes to taking a final decision on the future of the corporation.
If the TSRTC does not exist, then the strike notice issued by the unions in TSRTC too is not valid and they cannot hold talks with the Telangana government as it does not own the TSRTC. As the AP government is contemplating to recognise the staff as government employees, what would happen to the employees in Telangana? Would they become government employees and if so which government?
The strike has come at a time when the TSRTC has been sinking inexorably into a morass of mounting losses. Its coffers have hit a rock bottom. It does not have more than Rs 7 crore in it kitty and it is yet to pay salaries to the employees for September which works out to Rs 239 crore and for October, the TSRTC is not bound to pay salaries for the full month of since the employees have been on strike since October 5.
Though the High Court has asked the government to release at least Rs 49 crore to meet the immediate needs of the corporation, there is no response till date. Adding insult to injury, the government has put its foot firmly down asking the beleaguered corporation to pay up to Rs 540 crore MV tax dues which had piled up till 2017-18.
Then there was more trouble from EPO which also wanted the corporation to cough up Rs 760 crore dues. Another misfortune that had struck TSRTC was the High Court’s direction asking it to pay immediately Rs 200 crore of Rs 411 crore to the employees thrift and cooperative.
This comes in the backdrop of the government washing off its hands in infusing more financial succour into corporation. The government argued that it has so far paid Rs 1,117 crore till October this year since 2018-19 which was more than the dues that are alleged to have fallen in arrears.
Then making resolution of strike more difficult was the direction of the High Court to the government, restraining it from issuing permits to 5,100 routes till further orders, which would only harden the state government’s stand to move the apex court if the final verdict in the High Court goes against it.