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Striking TSRTC staff have no option left

Striking TSRTC staff have no option left
Highlights

A peculiar political situation is prevailing in both the Telugu States. While the issue of sand shortage is taking a serious turn in Andhra Pradesh and there have been some unfortunate instances of suicides, in Telangana, the RTC strike which has entered the 31st day on Monday is becoming more and more complicated by each passing day.

A peculiar political situation is prevailing in both the Telugu States. While the issue of sand shortage is taking a serious turn in Andhra Pradesh and there have been some unfortunate instances of suicides, in Telangana, the RTC strike which has entered the 31st day on Monday is becoming more and more complicated by each passing day.

Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao announced that the TSRTC would be trifurcated — 5,200 buses to be operated by the TSRTC, 3,100 buses to be hired and operated by the TSRTC, and 2,100 buses to be operated by private parties.

He also fixed a deadline for the employees to re-join duties as a last chance. He stated that he was armed with the amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act by Parliament recently.

He said no one could stop him from privatisation of RTC, perhaps not even the courts since it was an executive policy decision taken by the Cabinet.

But the State BJP says that the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 2019 has no reference either to transport corporations nor it recommends privatisation of RTC and that the it was an attempt by the government to divert the attention and shift the blame. The party says that RTC Act of 1950 supersedes all Acts in administering RTCs across India.

It gives full responsibility to the State government to appoint a management team to administer the corporation. RTC cannot be run by the government directly. Under the provisions of the RTC Act of 1950, no State government can liquidate the RTC without the approval of the Central government.

No State can privatise the TRC unilaterally without the assent of the RTC board and employee's resolution for the same.

Well, it would be better to wait for the court's verdict and see how it would interpret the law, the fact remains that the BJP at the national level is not totally opposed to privatisation.

Recently, the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari made a strong pitch for privatisation of public transport system, especially buses, in Indian cities.

He said that there was a strong need for the State governments to accept that they cannot run the system effectively and efficiently and hence should adopt the London model of public private partnership.

He made a pertinent point that the financial situation of all RTCs was in a bad shape as they neither have the money nor even banks were not willing to give them loans.

The credibility is so bad that even petrol bunks do not want to fill the tanks, he said. He said almost all State governments' financial situation was very bad and neither they had money, nor banks were willing to lend to them.

He said the credibility of State transport operators was so bad that petrol pumps do not want to fill the tanks of their buses as they do not pay for the diesel at the time of filling the tank.

The London transport model is governed by a local government body but most of the responsibilities are contracted to private entities. This is what the Telangana government too wants to follow, sources in government say. The government feels that privatisation would help in providing comfortable public transport system.

The government will certainly implement its decision. But then there are certain issues that need to be taken care of. The RTC may take back all those who want to join but then the this has a negative side as well.

Once 50 percent buses are privatised, the employees will have to be accommodated elsewhere and still there would be excess staff. In such a scenario, the corporation would send these employees to different places and their life would be in jeopardy.

Generally, no private operator would operate buses in loss making routes, but the Chief Minister said they had opted only for such routes. Something which really needs to be watched.

If that is so, it would be a great achievement on the part of the government. In some States where RTC has been privatised, problems like honouring passes has become a big problem.

If the government can really ensure that the private buses honour passes and wait for government reimbursement, well, it would also be another feather in the cap of the government on the eve of municipal elections.

One thing is certain, the decision of the government has put the unions in a piquant situation. They are now coming up with new proposal saying if the government accepts all their demands, they would wind up all unions.

This certainly shows that they are now on back foot. Employees had shown lot of patience and continued strike for 31 days but then their families need to be taken care of and with no indication of government calling them for talks, the mood now appears to be swinging in favour of accepting government's offer to re-join work.

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