Striking RTC employees, government remain firm

Strike to continue on Monday too; workers call for a Statewide demonstration with families to protest against govt.’s ‘insensitivity’

The striking road transport corporation (RTC) employees and the State government hardened their stands on Sunday, quashing any hopes of resumption of bus services from Monday. As Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa ruled out any talks with the striking workers and the government unleashed a slew of punitive measures, RTC employees announced a Statewide protest demonstration with their families on Monday.

Kodihalli Chandrashekar, honorary president of the KSRTC Employees League, announced that all RTC employees would gather outside the offices of tahsildars and Deputy Commissioners across the State with their family members and bang plates on Monday, as a mark of protest against the “government’s insensitivity”. “The only way the impasse can be resolved is through talks. With the Chief Minister ruling out talks, we are left with no option but to hold protests,” he said. R. Chandrashekar, president of the league, said, “We will follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour.”

Ban on protests

However, the demonstration is expected to become the latest flash point between the two sides, as the government has explicitly banned all protests till April 20 in view of the pandemic. Praveen Sood, Director-General and Inspector-General of Police, said any violation of the recently issued guidelines would be appropriately dealt with by the local authorities.

Meanwhile, the RTCs have continued with the carrot-and-stick policy to break the ongoing indefinite strike. RTCs have gone ahead with the threat to withhold March salary of the striking workers and announced that salary of only those working would be paid on Monday, a move that has drawn much ire but defended by the Chief Minister himself.

No compromise: CM

Warning of “stern action”, Mr. Yediyurappa, who is campaigning in Maski, told mediapersons, “We know how to face the situation. There is no compromise. Salaries of the employees who are on strike will not be released. The government will proceed to take stern action against employees who do not return to work and they will only have themselves to blame for their plight”.

The RTCs have also announced that the request for inter-corporation transfer of those participating in the strike would not be considered and transfer orders of those who have already been transferred from one corporation to another, would be cancelled, unless they report to duty immediately. Inter-corporation transfer has been a key demand of the striking RTC employees, one that the government has fulfilled.

Dismissals continue

The BMTC dismissed 62 trainees and 60 probationers on Sunday. Over 350 employees have been dismissed across the four RTCs. Labour Minister A. Shivaram Hebbar defended the dismissals. “We have declared the strike illegal on the basis of many factors. The government and the RTCs have the right to take certain decisions to protect the interests of people,” he said and added that the department could stand with labourers only when their demands are raised in a fair manner.

The slew of punitive measures RTCs have taken seems to be having some impact. For the first time since the strike began on April 7, nearly 2,500 buses made trips in the State on Sunday. A senior RTC official expressed confidence that there was weariness regarding government action setting in among the striking employees and this will soon yield results.

Passes extended

The RTCs on Sunday extended the validity of all passes — student pass, monthly pass, and other concessional passes — by the number of days the strike lasts.

Two buses damaged

Two KSRTC buses, both of which started from Mangaluru, were pelted with stones and damaged in Mysuru district on Sunday. While one bus was damaged at Bilikere, the other one at Hunsur. Two employees have been arrested in connection with these incidents so far. As many as 14 buses have been damaged since the strike began on April 7.

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