HYDERABAD: Even as the TSRTC employees’ strike entered the 24th day on Monday, the State government appears set on going ahead with its plan of issuing permits to private operators to run buses on as many as 4,000 routes in the state. According to sources, the state Cabinet, which is likely to meet within two or three days, will clear the proposal to issue 3,000 to 4,000 routes to private bus operators.
The sources said the proposal to issue permits is being contemplated as the strike may not end anytime soon since the employees had taken the issue to the high court. Issuing permits to private operators could end commuters’ transportation woes.
The sources pointed out that the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act, 2019 has vested in states the power to issue permits to private bus operators. The Act came into existence from September 1, 2019, they added.
“No one can question the state government when it decides to issue route permits to private players, as the Modi government itself wanted states to do so,” government sources pointed out.
“When private players are allowed, they will organise more trips to make more money, and ease the transportation problem.”
The government earlier received 21,453 applications after issuing a notification for the operation of private buses on 1,000 routes. Officials say that once the routes are privatised, operators from other states would also run buses here.
Pursuant to an earlier direction of the Telangana High Court, Additional Advocate General J Ramachandra Rao, appearing for the TSRTC management, on Monday filed an additional counter affidavit and told the court that trade union leaders insisted on discussions on all their demands, including a merger with the government, contrary to the court’s order, and abruptly left the meeting called by the joint executive committee on October 25.
In 2014, the government was generous to TSRTC employees, and provided them 44% fitment and an interim relief of 16%. Now, the government has no money to handle their grievances, and wants the conflict between the management and employees to be sorted out before the labour court, he added.
Disputing this, senior counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for the trade unions, said the court order was misinterpreted and the chief minister had declared that the unions gave up their main demand. But the unions had only agreed not to have a pre-requisite to begin discussions. The management was not even ready to discuss all the demands, he said, adding that if the government had returned the Rs 3,967 crore to the corporation, it would not have landed in this financially precarious situation.
The bench said the corporation could easily meet four demands of the employees by releasing about Rs 47 crore. When the AAG said the state allocated Rs 550 crore to aid the ailing TSRTC in 2019-2020 and cannot afford to allocate more now, the bench asked why the government went for populism when it could have extended less fitment and IT.
The state cannot say it cannot allocate budget as the financial position was precarious. It is the government’s duty to take care of the people of the state, the court asserted and asked what was preventing the state from shelling out the “small amount” (Rs 47 crore) as a first step towards resolving the crisis.
Additional advocate general J Ramachandra Rao:
The union leaders urged the committee to discuss all the demands, instead of the 21 demands, which was not in accordance with the court’s orders
During the course of meeting with the committee on October 26, the union leaders left the meeting abruptly. Prior to attending the meeting, they had met all the political parties. This shows that their agenda was politically motivated and that they were not particular about the discussions
The unions are creating panic in the minds of the temporarily hired drivers and conductors to disrupt alternative arrangements
The present outstanding liability of the corporation stands at Rs 4,709 crore, out of which Rs 1,660 crore must go towards credit cooperative society/ provident fund / leave encashment and retiral benefits payable. Rs 3,049 crore, meanwhile, must go towards loans. As on August this year, the corporation has accumulated losses of Rs 5,269 crore. Further, there is a need to replace 2,600 buses at an additional cost of Rs 829 crore
The corporation is incurring loss to the tune of Rs 1,200 crore per year and the government has already allocated Rs 550 crore for the year 2019-20
Due to the ongoing strike, the corporation has incurred a loss of more than Rs 175 crore. The corporation realises an amount of about Rs 10 crore per day and Rs 13 crore per day during festive seasons. At present, only about Rs 10 crore is available in the corporation account
Overall, 88 per cent of the buses are being operated to cater to the needs of the general public. There will be further improvement in the bus services operation
On October 26, in a meeting with the RTC management, the union leaders were asked to deposit their phones at the entrance before the commencement of the discussions
The said meeting was conducted in a setting wherein the management had failed to treat the workmen as equal stakeholders in an industrial dispute
The Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. He further antagonised and alienated the workers
The RTC management stated that it would discuss only 21 demands out of a total of 45 demands of the unions
The JAC reiterated its commitment to negotiate with the management at any time given that all their demands are discussed/considered