Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao, the first Chief Minister of Telangana and one of the most popular regional leaders of the country, is facing massive protest by 50,000 employees of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC), a state-owned company which runs buses in Telangana.
The employees of TSRTC launched a strike against KCR government on October 5 with 26 demands which includes the merger of the corporation with the state government and revision of pays among others.
KCR has asked the employees to end the strike unconditionally and return to work. But, out of 50,000 employees, only 400 returned to work. Ashwatama Reddy, RTC – Joint Action Committee (JAC), President said, “The RTC unions have decided to boycott CM KCR’s call to resume their services unconditionally. All the employees are supporting the strike and they will not join back into services until the government comes forward to hold discussions with us on our demands.”
After that, the Chief Minister decided to hit back TSRTC with 452 crore rupees transportation tax demand notice.
The state government has declared the workers ‘illegal’. The TSRTC is operating on loss since last five year and every time the government has to aid it to rescue it from bankruptcy. “While the RTC was facing a debt burden of Rs 3,006 crore, the state government had paid Rs 3,903 crore in the last five years towards concessions being given to various sections of people. In fact, the RTC itself is due to pay Rs 540 crore to the state government towards Motor Vehicle Tax,” said in-charge managing director of RTC Sunil Sharma.
TRSTC has more than 5,000 buses in its fleet and more than 50,000 people are employed by the corporation. As TRSTC has been a loss-making business and state government has to rescue it every time, the government has decided to privatize the transportation business.
As per a report by Hindustan Times, “KCR had instructed the authorities to go ahead with the issuance of notification granting permits to 5,100 private buses in the first phase and for the remaining 5,000-odd buses in the subsequent phases.”
The massive protest by TRSTC could be Singur moment for KCR.
In 2008, Tata Motors was forced to move its Nano car project out of West Bengal’s Singur, past of Mamata Banerjee’s anti-land acquisition movement, orchestrated against the Left government.
Singur protest proved crucial in the political history of West Bengal. In 2011, Mamata Banerjee ended the 34-year rule of the Left Front in the state, riding on public sentiment against CPI(M) after the Singur protest.
Like Left Front, KCR enjoys massive political backing in the state. His party won 88 seats out of 119 in 2018 election and came to power with two-third majority in the legislative assembly. The party won 9 out of 17 parliamentary seats in the state in 2019 assembly election. It has garnered more than 40 per cent votes in the state in the last assembly and parliamentary election.
But, the massive strike by TRSTC workers could prove political debacle and weaken the popularity of KCR. He has taken a maximalist position on strike and so far has not entertained any demand of the workers. In addition to that, he slapped 400 crore rupees fine on the corporation, and not even one met the protesters who have maintained that a meeting with KCR will solve everything.
BJP is already a rising power in the state and it could politically benefit from the strike. The opposition- BJP and Congress have extended support to TRSTC employees and said that KCR should at least meet them. A few leaders have also made statements about the arrogant attitude of KCR and said that he is a worse dictator than Hitler.