Observing that it was “public in general” that was being “troubled”, the Bombay High Court has once again asked whether there is a “possibility of a way out” to end the strike by employees of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC).
On being informed that employees are being denied entry at depots, a division bench of Justices P Varale and SM Modak on Monday also asked the striking employees not to stop those who want to return to work.
On the one hand where the workers are adamant not to withdraw the strike, the MSRTC counsel said that even today they are “open to suggestions” to end the hardships faced by commuters, especially in rural areas where there is no other convenient and economic means of transport.
Despite restraining orders from the HC and the industrial court, the workers proceeded on strike from midnight of November 3-4.
The HC has asked the workers’ union to submit a memorandum of demands to the three-member committee formed by the state government to address all issues, including merging the corporation with the state government.
SU Kamdar and GS Hegde, counsels for the MSRTC, said that the corporation was open to suggestions as it concerns the general public. “If the court says, we are willing to negotiate. The (earlier) division bench was taken for a ride (by the workers). Despite assurance they did not withdraw the strike,” said Kamdar.
Initially, advocate for the workers’ Gunaratan Sadavarte, refused to send their representative for a hearing before the committee which will be conducting a meeting on Tuesday. He argued that 36 employees had died by suicide and two others tried to self-immolate on Sunday outside Mantralaya.
“Nobody should end their life in such a way. Inform your leader (Union leaders) that every life is precious. When one worker dies by suicide, who is the only earning member, it is the loss of the entire family,” said Justice Varale.
Urging the union to send a representative before the committee’s hearing, Justice Varale said: “It is an earnest request that nobody should take such an extreme step. Participate in the meeting and make a representation to the committee.”
Calling the committee a “toothless tiger”, Sadavarte said that ministers were making statements and hence they did not have faith in the committee. However, they have agreed to send a representative to submit a written memorandum of demands.
To this, Kamdar said that the committee would send its report and suggestions and ultimately the decision would have to be passed by the cabinet. Kamdar also assured the court that no employees’ salary was outstanding.
He also said that 111 drivers and 70 conductors had reported to work and over 2,000 passengers had used MSRTC services since yesterday.
HC has asked the government to submit minutes of the meeting to the court on November 18, the next date of hearing. The HC has also asked the employees to file their affidavit by then.
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