Trapped between two lines of battling groups, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Corporation’s (APTDC) Vijayawada Divisional Manager J. Raghupathi Rao has become a casualty in the ongoing indefinite strike by the daily wage and manpower agency workers of the Corporation.
Ironically, Mr. Rao received his promotion orders a day before he was suspended by Chief Secretary, Tourism, Chandana Khan. The daily wage and manpower agency workers are on an indefinite strike insisting that they be converted into contract employees. Equal work equal pay is another demand.
The reason cited for Mr. Rao’s suspension has evoked strong reactions from leaders of various unions. The divisional manager, it is said, had been made a scapegoat. Sources in the Corporation said Mr. Rao had incurred the wrath of his boss Ms. Chandana Khan for not obeying her instruction to use police force to quell the workers’ strike. The manager apparently saw no reason to seek police assistance since the protesters did not try to disrupt the operations at the APTDC properties and had been adopting peaceful ways of demonstrating their resentment.
They have adopted different ways of protesting on different days. In an attempt to attract public attention towards their woes, the workers have resorted to ‘bhikshatana’, ‘chevilo puvvu chetilo chippa’, a semi-nude protest and sweeping the roads.
The Tourism Corporation management and the union leaders supporting the workers’ strike are at loggerheads, sticking to their respective stands. The management has dubbed the strike as ‘illegal and thus unfair in this peak season of tourism’. “Technically speaking, the striking workers are not even APTDC employees because they have been employed by their respective agencies, not by the Corporation,” Corporation’s Executive Director Madhusudhan had declared categorically.
The workers are equally adamant, not willing to give up till their demands are conceded. “Suspension of the Divisional Manager is unfair. The management has asked the agencies to remove the striking employees and replace them with a new set of workers. If that happens, we will intensify the strike. It will prompt entry of public sector employees unions, who have agreed to support our cause in the days to come,” said Subhash Chandra Bose, State leader of APTDC Employees’ Union.
Mr. Rao’s suspension has triggered unrest among leaders of APTDC Officers’ Association also. Sources said the association was also planning to take up Mr. Rao’s case at an appropriate platform.