Amid incidents of stone-pelting in a few places, the day-long shutdown began in Telangana on a call given by the employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), whose indefinite strike entered the 15th day on Saturday.
Transport services were hit as a majority of the TSRTC buses remained confined to depots in Hyderabad and 32 other districts with protesting employees staging a sit-in to prevent the vehicles from coming out.
Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station (MGBS), the biggest bus station in Hyderabad, wore a near-deserted look as bus services to most of the destinations in Telangana and neighbouring states were suspended.
Adding to the woes of the commuters in Hyderabad, the Ola and Uber cab drivers also went on an indefinite strike from Saturday to press for their demands to regularise the cab aggregator market. The drivers’ association claimed that 50,000 cabs have gone off the roads.
The Opposition Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), Jana Sena, Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), trade unions, various organisations of employees, teachers and workers, student bodies and people’s groups have given their support to the shutdown call of the striking TSRTC employees.
Police arrested leaders of the Opposition parties for staging protests along with the striking TSRTC employees at various places in the state. TJS president M. Kodandaram, TDP leaders L. Ramna and R. Chandrashekhar Reddy and leaders of the Left parties were arrested by the police.
Protesters pelted stones at a few places in Nizamabad district and at Wanaparthy, damaging four buses. Police made elaborate security arrangements in Hyderabad and other towns to prevent violence. TSRTC was operating a few buses with the help of temporary employees and under police protection.
The shutdown was called by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of TSRTC employees, who have been on strike since October 5 to press for their demands, the main being TSRTC’s merger with the government.
JAC has blamed the government for the situation, saying it was not inviting them for talks despite the direction of the Telangana High Court.
The government has not only ruled out talks with the employees but declared that 48,000 employees as ‘dismissed themselves’ by not joining the duty before the expiry of the deadline. Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao has ruled out taking back these employees into TSRTC and has asked TSRTC to recruit more temporary employees and hire more private buses.
The strike has seen two TSRTC employees commit suicide as non-payment of salaries for September has enraged the staff.
The government has come under flak from the Opposition for taking a tough stand on the strike.