Hyderabad: With the RTC employees continuing their strike, the government has been exploring various other alternatives. It is learnt that Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has been busy looking at all options before the government before the best possible decision was taken. In this exercise, the Chief Minister is learnt to have received suggestions from senior IAS officers and transport sector experts who studied different road transport models in vogue in other States.
According to sources, Madhya Pradesh had back in 2005, completely shutdown its Road Transport Corporation after it continued to pile up losses. The employees were offered a voluntary retirement scheme. Now, private operators in Madhya Pradesh run 35,000 buses with the government providing them with the requisite permits.
A similar situation exists in Chhattisgarh, which followed the MP model and does not have an RTC.
In Jharkhand too, there is no public owned RTC with the State, at the time of bifurcation from Bihar, the new State had decided against having a State-owned transport corporation. Those RTC employees allocated to Jharkhand were absorbed into different government departments and Jharkhand then privatised all the bus routes and gave 6,000 permits to private buses which now provide transport services to the people.
Incidentally, in Uttar Pradesh, the largest State in the country with a 20 crore population, the RTC has only 12,000 buses. As many as 50,000 routes were privatised in UP.
In the case of Bihar too though it too has a RTC, the corporation there owns just 600 buses with private operators playing a major role in public bus transport. The Bihar RTC also gives its buses on hire to private operators either on a daily or a monthly hire basis and runs very few buses on its own.
Elsewhere in West Bengal, the RTC there was divided into three entities which between them have 3,500 buses. As many as 10,000 routes are served by private operators and West Bengal’s RTC too follows the Bihar model in leasing out its own buses to private operators.
Central Act encourages private permits
With the situation in other States like this, the Central government had amended the Motor Vehicle Act’s Section 57 on September 1, 2019, empowering States to give route permits to private bus operators and provide them with an opportunity to extend their services to the people. Incidentally, the amendments to the MV Act were piloted and passed in the Parliament, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Current RTC strike is illegal
The other factor, government sources insist on was the illegality of the ongoing strike. When RTC unions issued their strike notice, the Labour Department began talking with the unions and even as this process was on, the unions declared their date for launching the strike, a move that is against the law. The Labour Department’s Joint Commissioner too had made this clear earlier and went on to add that it was not correct on part of the unions to go on strike without taking an active part in the negotiation process. Despite this, the unions did not heed the advice following which the Labour Department declared the strike as illegal. The net result of the unions’ actions is that the one platform for them to hold talks with RTC management, was no longer available.
BJP, Congress turn selfish
Even as this was the case, the role played by the BJP, the Congress Party and other Opposition parties with respect to the strike, has come in for sharp criticism. Analysts point out that the opposition parties had only queered the pitch and were egging on the TSRTC JAC and drive the workers into a cul-de-sac. Sources close to the Chief Minister asked if the BJP was really sincere about finding a solution, then it could impress upon the Centre to release funds matching the latter’s share of 31 per cent stake in the RTC to overcome the losses. But the BJP leaders in Telangana, including the party president Dr K Lakshman and the Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy, were indulging in empty rhetoric. However, a section of the RTC workers appear to be realising the fact that the BJP government at the Centre had recently privatised a Navaratna company such as BPCL.
The Congress, on the other hand, appeared to be using the tactic of utilising anything and everything that could go against the government to prove its existence.
According to a former RTC union leader, what these parties are up to is nothing more than trying to gain whatever political mileage they can get from supporting the strike with little thought, concern or care for the welfare of the striking workers or their future. The attitude of these two parties in reality appear to be pushing RTC towards a certain financial disaster, into losses that it can never recover from and ultimately into bankruptcy.