Hyderabad: As the indefinite strike by the TSRTC employees entered the 10th day on Monday, senior ruling TRS leader K Keshava Rao asked the workers to end the stir and resolve the issues amicably through talks, while a bandh was observed in Khammam protesting the death of a driver who immolated himself.
Rao also appealed to the government, which has taken a tough stand so far and declared the strike as illegal, to consider the employees' charter, barring the demand for merger of the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation. Responding to the appeal of the senior TRS leader, a union leader asked Rao to mediate on the issue. Meanwhile, a delegation of the Joint Action Committee of the employees unions submitted a memorandum to state Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, seeking her intervention in the matter and claimed she responded positively.
The developments came in the backdrop of the continuing standoff and the death of two employees, who ended their lives and attempted suicides by two others in the last couple of days. Nearly 48,000 workers of TSRTC are on an indefinite strike from October 5 in response to a call by the JAC over demands, including the merger of the corporation with the government and filling up of vacant posts.
In the first signs of a possible softening of the stand by the government, Rao, the TRS Parliamentary leader and party secretary-general, appealed to the employees to call off the strike and sort out the issue with the government in a 'legitimate way.' He urged the government to consider the employees issues, other than the demand for merger of RTC with the government.
Reacting to Rao's statement,TSRTC-JAC leader E Ashwathama Reddy told reporters that he (Keshava Rao) should mediate and help resolve the issues through talks. However, he said all the issues were linked with the merger and if that was done, the other issues would be resolved. "Let the government first begin the process of talks with us," he said.
Since the employees went on strike, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had taken a tough stand,saying the agitating workers had "self-dismissed" themselves and made it clear that under no circumstances would the RTC be merged with the government. He had also ruled out talks with the employees or taking them back, terming the agitation as "illegal." The Khammam bandh passed off peacefully with the striking employees claiming it was total.
However, police said the bandhs impact was minimal. Khammam police commissioner Tafseer Iqubal told PTI over phone that the bandh passed off peacefully and no untoward incidents were reported. The 55-year-old driver had succumbed to burns on Sunday, a day after setting himself ablaze, allegedly in protest against the government not conceding to the workers' demands. Hours after Reddy's death, conductor Surender Goud, aged around 50, allegedly committed suicide by hanging at his house here on Sunday night.
In a fresh incident on Monday, a 42-year-old conductor tried to end his life by slashing his left forearm with a blade, but his attempt was foiled and he has been hospitalised and a case registered for attempting suicide, police said. Another TSRTC driver, aged around 40, doused himself with petrol at a depot in Warangal district on Sunday. However, police immediately intervened and foiled his bid.
Ashwathama Reddy said that during the meeting with the Governor, the JAC delegation also submitted video-clippings and newspaper reports on the alleged suppression of their agitation by the government. Meanwhile, the employees took out protest rallies across the state, holding 'Save RTC' placards and raising slogans against the government.
Police foiled attempts by different student organisations to lay siege to the 'Bus Bhavan' here and took several of them into preventive custody. Telugu film actor and Jana Sena Party founder Pawan Kalyan announced his party's support to the state-wide bandh call given by the JAC-TSRTC for October 19.