HYDERABAD: Merely paying Rs 47 crore to meet four of the quantified demands of the striking TSRTC employees would not address the larger issues of the huge outstanding dues of the TSRTC, including statutory liabilities and cumulative losses, the state government has told the Telangana High Court. The court had earlier asked the government to graciously consider making a payment of `47 crore. With the unions still demanding a merger of the corporation with the government, which is not feasible, engaging them in further discussions is not likely to serve any useful purpose, the government noted.
Pointing out that the unions went on strike on October 5, when the conciliation process was on before the officer concerned, the government urged the court to pass orders for the conciliation proceedings to be taken up further by the designated authority under the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 to overcome the current impasse as it is predominantly an industrial dispute. Going on strike when the conciliation proceedings were on, makes the strike illegal, in apparent contravention of the Section 22(1)(d) and Section 24(1)(i) of the ID Act, as well as under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), 1971, it added.
In this regard, the government, represented by Chief Secretary SK Joshi, filed a counter affidavit on Sunday on the PIL filed by R Subender Singh with a plea to declare the TSRTC strike and the action of the official respondents in not considering the employees’ demands and thereby not resolving the issue as equally arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional. The PIL will come up for hearing before the division bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy on Monday.
The chief secretary said the government had rescued the corporation in the past, but present budgetary constraints do not permit the release of assistance to meet the huge outstanding dues.
“The TSRTC is grappling with financial issues to be addressed by involving immediate and medium to long-term liabilities,” the chief secretary said.As for the immediate liabilities, outstanding payments, including statutory payments, owed by the TSRTC were `2,209.66 crore as on November 8, and of this, about `1,521.25 crore is due to employees. Besides, the TSRTC has incurred cumulative losses of `5,269.25 crore as on August 31, he said.
“If the corporation continues to operate in losses like this, how are they going to service their outstanding loans of `1,786.81 crore to banks and other organisations? The unions are fully aware about it and cannot feign ignorance. Despite being fully aware that most liabilities of the corporation, such as EPF, CCS and retired employees settlement, pertain to employees, the unions resorted to an illegal strike, causing severe loss to the corporation,” he noted.
He also stated that the unions went ahead with the “illegal” strike against the public interest even when the TSRTC was in a grave financial situation, thinking that by deliberately inconveniencing the common man, the government would give in to the pressure. The unions have made it a habit to engineer such strikes on important occasions, he claimed, adding that such tactics are adopted whenever the union elections are due.
When it was well known that the Supreme Court would announce the Ayodhya verdict on November 9, the JAC aggravated the situation, he contended. When the high court scheduled the hearing of the PIL on November 11, hardly four days after the previous hearing, what was the hurry to hold the ‘Chalo Tank Bund’ protest, when it is known that Hyderabad is a sensitive place, he asked.