With the Karnataka government and the striking transport workers union still in a deadlock, the state-wide bus strike will enter its third day on Friday. A majority of government bus workers have gone on strike since Wednesday demanding that the government gives them salaries in accordance with the Sixth Pay Commission. This would mean a 30% hike while the government is only ready to give an 8% raise. The workers say that the government has failed to keep the promise made to them on December 15, 2020 based on which they had called off an earlier strike.
According to Transport Department Principal Secretary Anjum Parvez, all four state-run transport corporations operate a fleet of 26,000 buses with its 1.37 lakh employees. But on Thursday, only 456 buses operated during the day. To mitigate the crisis, the government is looking to hire retired bus drivers, army and police drivers too. Already the government has allowed private bus and maxi cab operators to ply government routes and use bus stations.
Parvez said that the state government has many options like taking help from armed forces and police. "These two are the biggest departments where drivers exist. We can use them by handing over our bus keys to them," he said.
"At this juncture, we are collating data of those who retired as drivers and conductors in the last two years and we will invite them to kick start our operations. If this falls short, then we can ask our armed forces to lend their drivers to run our operations. Above all, we can also have private operators running the show for us or till this crisis is over," he said.
He added that the state government had already finalised talks with private bus operators, who have agreed to lend 18,000 buses on a lease. "Karnataka has also already offered to them a slew of benefits like tax relaxations, cancellations of permits and fitness certificates in order to mitigate the crisis," Parvez said in response to a question.
He also appealed to employees not to stick to their stand in an adamant manner instead there should be some leeway to start the dialogue process.