Telangana turns down idea of ex-judges’ panel on TSRTC strike

Hyderabad: The stalemate over the strike by employees of the Telangana State Road Transport Corp (TSRTC) continued for 40th day on Wednesday as the state government did not agree to a suggestion by the Telangana High Court for a panel of three former Supreme Court judges to help end the standoff.

The state government in its affidavit mentioned that the Industrial Disputes Act has no provision for such a committee. It also informed the division bench headed by Chief Justice R.S. Chauhan that since the matter is being heard in the High Court, it is unable to approach the labour court.

It urged the court to direct the labour commission to take further action in the matter.

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The court continued hearing on the petitions relating to the strike by over 48,000 employees and the government’s decision to privatise half of the routes under state-owned TSRTC.

The counsel for the petitioners contended that the High Court has the power to set up a panel of retired judges of the Supreme Court.

Advocate General B.S. Prasad submitted to the bench that the strike is illegal under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).

The counsel for the striking employees argued again that the TSRTC is not a legal entity as the Centre has not yet approved the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC). The court adjourned the hearing to November 18.

The court had, on Tuesday, suggested a panel of three former judges of the Supreme Court to end the standoff as both the government and the striking employees stuck to their demands.

The employees are on strike since October 5 to press for 26 demands including the demand for merger of TSRTC with the government.

Taking a tough stand on the strike, the government termed it illegal, rejected the demand for merger and even announced the privatisation of 50 per cent of TSRTC routes.

Though the TSRTC last month held talks with leaders of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of striking employees on the direction of the High Court, the deadlock continued as the JAC insisted that the talks cover all their demands including that of merger.

The High Court had also suggested to the state government to release at least Rs 47 crore to the TSRTC to meet some of the demands of the employees, but the government informed that this would not address the problems faced by the transport entity resulting from huge losses.

The strike has witnessed the suicides of five employees and the deaths of a few others due to cardiac arrest as the continuing deadlock and non-receipt of salaries for two months has caused considerable distresse among employees, who are also fearful of losing jobs.

In the latest incident, a driver committed suicide in Mahabubabad on Wednesday. Following massive protests by TSRTC employees along with the body of the driver, the officials agreed to pay Rs 12 lakh compensation to his family. They also promised a double bedroom house for the driver’s kin and assured them that the demand for a government job to a family member will be considered.

On the 40th day of the strike, the employees continued their protest across the state. They tried to block the vehicles of public representatives at few places to demand that the government accept their demands.

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