Nearly 2 crore commuters affected as Tamil Nadu bus strike continues over wage hike

Talks with Tamil Nadu government fails, as strike affects city and inter-state buses.
Nearly 2 crore commuters affected as Tamil Nadu bus strike continues over wage hike
Nearly 2 crore commuters affected as Tamil Nadu bus strike continues over wage hike
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Officer goers, school and college students who arrived at bus depots on Friday morning found that depots were packed with buses- usually a welcome surprise, except none of them had drivers in them. As scores of commuters were left stranded, the bus drivers took to the streets to protest against their wages.

The strike affects city buses, inter-city buses as well as government inter-state buses.

The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation workers across the state continue to strike for the second day demanding a hike in wages. The strike began on Thursday evening when many bus drivers in Chennai were seen to be abandoning their buses between 5pm and 8 pm. While some commuters were able to get home safely, many were left stranded, being forced to look for alternative means of transportation.

Along with a wage hike, the bus drivers also demand job security as well as clearing of pending dues owed to them.

On Friday morning, buses didn’t leave the depots, grinding Chennai to a halt. With buses not plying, auto-rickshaws have arbitrarily raised prices while private cab companies were swift to invoke surge pricing. This has also caused severe traffic delays. Since the depots could not accommodate the buses, they spilled out on the roads, blocking main roads.

In Coimbatore, over 90% of the buses are off the roads affecting thousands of commuters.

Rajagopalan, a resident of Chennai, who arrived at the T Nagar bus stop said, "I am standing here for more than two hourse G18 bus. I was informed by the time keeper of the depot that four buses have gone and nothing has returned. The public are struggling a lot for going to so many places. It is also a problem if the buses are not returning, especially long distance. Only two or three buses are operated from here. The government is not taking any action to give relief to the public. They should encourage the public servants to move smoothly with the public to avoid the suffering of the public.

According to reports, talks headed by Transport minister MR Vijayabhaskar were held through midnight on Thursday and failed due to both parties- the government and transport unions- not being able to arrive at a compromise. The transport unions demand a little over two-and-a-half (2.57) times increase in their current salary while the government was willing to offer between 2.41 to 2.44. Transport minister MR Vijayabaskar appealed to the drivers to resume work and called the hike unprecedented and said that 35 transport unions had accepted the government’s proposal. He also termed the proposed hike was “unprecedented” and appealed to workers to resume their duties. Negotiations are currently underway between unions such as CITU and governmnent Road Transport officials. Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy is holding talks with Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam along with Transport Minister M R Vijayabhaskar and other officials.

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court has refused to take suo motu notice of ongoing TNSTC strike. Since transportation is an essential service, it is unclear why the HC has refused to act on its own cognizance. According to a report in the Times of India, around 1.8 crore passengers use 20,800 buses for their commute on a daily basis.

Actor Kamal Haasan took to Twitter urging Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to hold talks with striking transport employees, keeping in mind the plight of the public as well as the demands of the workers.

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