HYDERABAD: The government should be more generous toward its employees, a division bench of the Telangana High Court said on Tuesday, and directed the state government to inform it by October 18 about the steps taken to resolve the TSRTC employees’ strike, which began on October 5. The bench also directed the government and the striking staff to resolve the issue amicably as soon as possible, keeping the public interest in view, and inform the court of the outcome of such talks by the next hearing.
“On the one hand, the government says it is making all necessary arrangements by deploying private buses for the convenience of the people, but on the other hand, it extended the holidays for schools and colleges. Is this not a self-contradictory statement by the government? What would the unions do if the strike is declared illegal?” the court asked both parties.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy, made these remarks while hearing a PIL filed by R Subender Singh, a student of Osmania University, seeking to declare the strike as illegal and ensure the government forms an independent committee to study the issue and recommend the way forward. The bench suggested that the employees call off their strike and have negotiations with the government.
Senior counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for TSRTC Telangana Mazdoor Union, said the employees’ grievances were pending before the government since 2015, but their demands — such as revision of pay scales and replacement of old buses — were not met. After exploring all possible steps, RTC trade unions were compelled to go on strike, Reddy said.
‘Till then, go home and pray’
When the petitioner’s counsel insisted that the court pass orders on the issue, it said, “Mean-while, go home and pray to the Lord.” It posted the matter to October 18
Why didn’t you invite RTC unions for talks, HC asks TS govt
The court asked state advocate general BS Prasad why the government did not invite trade unions for talks or take concrete steps to mitigate people’s suffering during the strike. “It is not proper to put the common man to utter inconvenience and dismay... The government should first appoint the managing director to the corporation, prioritise the demands and give importance to urgent matters,” the bench remarked.
Additional advocate general (AAG) J Ramachandra Rao then claimed the government took steps to provide alternative arrangements during the strike. The employees’ demands were beyond the government’s reach, but the government was generous and offered them the highest pay package, he said, adding that the issue would be taken to the Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act, as the employees do not deserve another conciliation.
Not satisfied with this submission, the bench said the government cannot take a tough stand against the employees. Cases take about two to three months to get resolved in labour courts. “Does the government want people to suffer for three months due to lack of transportation? Why is the government so harsh towards the employees? These employees... brought your government to power for the second time... The government should be a model employer and treat employees as its children,” the bench observed, referring to the story of the Pandavas, who asked for five villages from the Kouravas before waging war against them for the kingdom.
The bench also pulled up the government for not appointing a regular chairman and managing director to the corporation in spite of having several IAS officers in the state. In the absence of a CMD, to whom would employees report their grievances, the court asked, and pointed out that the government has also failed to appoint Lokayukta, Upalokayukta and other officials.
Stating that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that employees of the corporation lead comfortable lives, the bench said the government and the corporation cannot disown them now. As for the “self dismissal” of the employees, the bench said, “We are in a democratic society and not still in the British era. The government... should come forward and resolve the grievances of its employees.”