Amidst protest before the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) headquarters on Saturday, the state’s transport minister made it clear that that TSRTC will not be merged with the Telangana state government.
Speaking to the media on Saturday, P Ajay Kumar, the Telangana Transport Minister, questioned the opposition parties who were extending support to RTC unions. He questioned as to why the RTCs in states ruled by BJP and Congress have not yet been merged with the state governments.
"Under which Congress and BJP ruling state, like Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, have the RTCs been merged with the state government? The opposition parties are trying to mislead people on strike-related issues. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao never promised that he would merge TSRTC with the government," added the minister.
The TSRTC statewide strike that began on October 5 has given enough political fodder for opposition parties to take on the ruling TRS government. Speaking to the media at a press conference, the minister reportedly said, "RTC will not be merged with the government and the striking employees are absconding from duty. There are many states were RTCs have not merged with the state government," said Kumar, who went on to say that the BJP government in the Centre has made moves to privatise the Indian Railways and thus the move by the TRS government to partially privatise the RTC is not wrong.
The Telangana government at present is operating the RTC and is hiring the services of private operators to manage the load. The minister informed that all the private buses belonging to schools will be phased out in the coming days. The state government has extended the Dasara holidays for schools to October 19. "We are not dependent on the school buses, there are nearly 7,000 buses running across the state, nearly 3,000 RTC owned buses, 1,500 hired buses and 800 private buses, in addition to 2,000-odd other vehicles," said the minister.
When media reporters questioned if the drivers on hire possessing heavy vehicle license are trained to drive buses that transport passengers the transport commissioner for Regional Transport Office, Sunil Sharma stated, it is not illegal. "Anyone owner of a vehicle that can transport people can get a daily permit online paying an amount of Rs 100 and carry passengers. All the drivers are taking that permit and driving," he added. According to Sunil, the RTC drivers need not be technically qualified but a permit from the RTO makes them qualified.
The minister gave no clear answer as to what actions are being taken with respect to the 48,000 odd employees who are on strike. When asked about the pending September salaries of the agitating staff, the minister said the government will take decisions on these issues.
Speaking on the recent reports about scuffle breaking out between the new bus conductors and commuters for being charged excess fare, the minister said, "The private bus conductors are being trained to use the ticket machine and the private/hired buses have been asked to honour the bus passes."