Morale at the lowest ebb as staff complain of corruption

Alleged rampant corruption, political interference, harassment and ill treatment of staff, rather than dissent over wage hike, appear to have triggered the strike by the crew of State Road Transport Corporations (RTCs) on Thursday.

These reasons are cited not by the strikers or their union leaders who gave the strike call, but by a few senior RTC officials who have been working with the single entity that used to be the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), before it was trifurcated into North West KRTC, North East KRTC and the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation BMTC).

One of them, who has put in 25 years, said that he was a painful witness to the posts of divisional controllers and depot managers being up for sale, a practice he alleges began four years ago. “Divisional controllers and depot managers openly demand money from lower level staff claiming they have to pay their bosses,” he alleged.

Unions back allegation

This charge is endorsed by union leaders, including H.V. Ananthasubba Rao, who said bus crew are forced to bribe higher-ups even for legitimate rights such as leave and weekly off. Besides, they face innumerable disciplinary actions, penalties and extension of training period. In fact, the “trainee” system itself is illegal, Mr. Rao said.

Many dedicated bureaucrats such as the late N. Gokulram, R. Sri Kumar, D.V. Guruprasad, K. Jairaj, Gaurav Gupta, Bhaskar Rao, Pradeep Singh Kharola, Bipin Gopalakrishna, Upendra Tripathy, P.S. Sandhu and others had strived to put KSRTC and BMTC on the right track. But post-2008, RTCs are bogged down by weak leadership, said an official. The nadir was the two BMTC divisional controllers getting caught while allegedly accepting bribe from lower-rung staff and a former BMTC managing director booked for corruption by the Lokayukta police this year.

A long hiatus

Mr. Sri Kumar, now Central Vigilance Commissioner, who had served as Director (Security and Vigilance) of KSRTC between 1996 and 2000, told The Hindu that the strike pained him. The last such industrial action was in 1998.

Pursuing awards

A senior official, who has been watching the Road Transport Corporations going downhill, said that instead of strengthening the administration and industrial relations, the government and RTC managements were pursuing all sort of awards and self-aggrandisement.

He pointed out that most of these awards were in recognition of service during or before 2008-09. For good measure, the BMTC had failed to augment its fleet since 2010, and its strength is stagnating at 6,000 buses.

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