An opening: On Telangana transport workers strike

After 47 days of agitations, the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation-Joint Action Committee (TSRTC-JAC) that coordinated the strike by transport unions has finally said that it is ready to call off the strike. The welcome move follows a High Court decision to direct the State Labour Commissioner to refer the dispute to a labour court which would also adjudicate on the legality of the strike. The court refrained from declaring the strike as illegal while also refusing to direct the State government and the corporation to negotiate with the striking workers. But it took a sympathetic stand about the perilous state of the workers and their families after the government had “dismissed” nearly the entire workforce and emphasised the point that the State is legally bound to look after the workers. Nearly two dozen transport workers have died following the start of the agitations, some committing suicide due to the stress of losing their jobs. Clearly this tragic situation is untenable. The High Court order provided an opening to the workers to seek to end the strike, leading to their demand that the State government should retain their services unconditionally. The government is yet to respond, but it must be said that its decision to “dismiss” the workers after conciliation talks had failed, was high-handed and legally suspect. The efforts to find replacement staff, in order to minimise the disruption, have not worked too well, as the erratic services and sporadic accidents in the last month-and-a-half have indicated. For now, it is in everyone’s interest that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti-led government brings back normalcy by reinstating the workers in accordance with the court’s sage advice.

The Corporation had indicated to the court that it will augment its services by buying 1,035 new buses; this was one of the key demands of the striking workers who complained about the ageing fleet. Reinstating the workers should pave the way for fresh negotiations between the workers and the management of the Corporation and the government to find ways to bring back sustainability in the finances and functioning of public transport in the State. Modernisation of transport services with the deployment of new buses, identification of proper routes and services using information technology among other reforms are the need of the hour. These should benefit not just the users of public transport but also the workers. For such reforms to be implemented, the support from the State government is imperative. It is high time that the government seeks to reassure all stakeholders that it is keen on working towards these. For starters, it must reverse the decisions it has taken since the agitations by the transport workers began a month-and-a-half ago.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 10:11:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/an-opening/article30030640.ece

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