After talks collapse, RTC staff say strike will continue


High drama prevailed on Sunday evening as the protesting leaders and employees of road transport corporations (RTCs) after claiming that they had received a “positive response” from the government made a U-turn when they arrived at Freedom Park where protesters were holding a hunger strike.

The leaders then announced that the indefinite strike will continue till the State considered them as government employees.

Chandrashekar R., president of Sarige Noukararu Sarakari Noukararaguva Horatada Okkoota, who described the meeting as positive, said that their primary demand remained unfulfilled and hence the talks failed.

Farmers leader Kodihalli Chandrashekar, who is leading the protest, also announced that the strike will continue on Monday.

As the situation deteriorated, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai lambasted Mr. Kodihalli Chandrashekar, accusing him of adopting “blackmail tactics” and misleading the employees.

“Representatives of the protesters left the Vikasa Soudha, saying that they received a positive response from the government. The State government agreed to most of their demands. But after reaching Freedom Park they changed their minds. They are doing this at the behest of an egoistic person. He is going against the interest of the general public and employees,” he said.

The Minister maintained the State government would provide security for employees who would report duty and warned of taking a tough stand against the protesters.

Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, in a release, also criticised Mr. Kodihalli Chandrashekar, saying his “mala fide” intentions were condemnable. He appealed to employees to call off strike.

Some operators extend support

A section of private bus operators on Sunday announced their support, saying they would not operate buses in Bengaluru.

Nataraj Sharma, chairman of the Karnataka State Tourist Operators’ Association, addressing the employees at Freedom Park said: “The Transport Minister is solely responsible for the entire problem. He did not entertain any of our requisitions when we suffered owing to the pandemic. We are going to support your cause and will not operate or ply private buses in Bengaluru on Monday.”However, other operators said they will run regular services.

On Saturday, Transport Minister Laxman Savadi had announced that the government would allow private operators to run buses as an alternative measure.

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On Sunday, he conducted a series of meetings with various union leaders, and in the evening a final round of meetings was conducted with representatives of the protesting employees. Mr. Savadi said that there were 10 to 12 demands from employees, the more feasible of which had been accepted considering the government’s financial limits.

After the meeting, the Minister said: “Treating them as government employees is impossible. Like road transport corporations, there are 30 to 40 corporations in the State,” he said.

Demands

Employees have demanded that salaries of the staff be revised as per the sixth pay commission with effect from January, 2020, for which the Minister said that a decision would be taken by considering the financial limitations of the government.

Other major demands approved by the government were providing compensation of ₹30 lakh to an employee who dies after contracting COVID-19, providing Arogya Sanjeevini health insurance, forming an appeal committee to look into complaints of harassment made by employees, providing allowances to bus drivers and conductors which was stopped owing to pandemic.

The Minister said the allowances would be given from January.

The government had also agreed to bring down the probationary period of trainee employees from two years to one year.

Mr. Kodihalli Chandrashekar was not part of the meeting held at the Vikasa Soudha.

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Sagar Biswas

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