MSRTC unions give call for a statewide stir today

The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employee unions have given a call for a statewide agitation from Monday to press their demand for the payment of three months’ salary, which comes to Rs 900 crore. The employees will go on a symbolic hunger strike at their residence with their entire family to draw the government’s attention.

They are agitated that, despite the assurances from Transport Minister Anil Parab, there has been no action so far, especially with Diwali around the corner. There are more than 98,000 employees who have been anxiously waiting to receive their salaries since August.

MSRTC administration has warned of disciplinary action against the employees participating in Monday’s agitation. However, unions have hinted that they were prepared for a legal battle so that the management will ultimately pay their salaries. Recently, union leaders had met Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar who had promised to speak to Parab for the early release of salary to employees.

Union leader Sandeep Shinde said, despite the pandemic, state transport employees were working as essential services and risking their lives. Several employees were infected with the virus and about 73 employees succumbed to it. He said that the 5 per cent dearness allowance has not yet been applied despite being included in the agreement with the management.

Unions, recently, had held an agitation in every tehsil to draw the state government’s attention. But the government is yet to fulfil its promise.

As reported by Free Press Journal, Parab has admitted that the MSRTC has been hit hard because of nationwide lockdown amidst the coronavirus pandemic. MSRTC’s accumulated loss has mounted to a record Rs 5,500 crore and its daily income of Rs 22 crore has been dipped to Rs 6 crore following the closure of ST bus services during the pandemic.

Parab has sought Rs 3,600 crore from the state government on an urgent basis for MSRTC to disburse salaries and keep its operations on. Even though MSRTC has resumed its services, its buses are plying at full capacity. Passengers are still reluctant and do not want to take any chance in the pandemic.

Thackeray cautioned against a second wave of the virus. “We have to be very cautious. The numbers are on a decline but from what we are seeing in the western countries is that when the second wave comes, it’s not a wave, it’s a tsunami. The government will not dismantle the Covid centres and hospitals as shortage of healthcare workers will be an issue,’’ he noted.

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