Bus services were hit across Karnataka for the second consecutive day on Thursday, as drivers and conductors of road transport corporations continued their indefinite strike on wage related issues. With the stalemate between the government and RTC workers over the implementation of the sixth pay commission report not coming to an end, the strike is likely to continue for the third consecutive day on Friday.

With the government not ready to concede to their demand for implementation of the sixth pay commission report, employees have decided to continue with the strike, despite Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa warning strict action. “I will try to resolve the issue, and will hold a discussion regarding this.If they (employees) are adamant, we will take strict action in accordance with law,” he said.

Asked will he call employees for a meeting, he said, “I will not call.. with whom should I speak? They should withdraw (strike) and start running buses…we have fulfilled 8 out of their nine demands.” With the majority of the employees belonging to all the four transport corporations not attending duty, buses continued to remain mostly off roads across the state, including Bengaluru, affecting daily commuters. Passengers travelling to and from distant areas and office goers were the most affected.

However the government has tried to make alternative arrangements by roping in private transport operators. Railways too have chipped in by deciding to run special trains on certain routes to help the commuters aimed at clearing the upcoming Ugadi festival rush, in the wake of RTC workers strike.

Private buses, mini buses, maxi cabs and other passenger transport vehicles were seen operating in different parts of the city and the state, coming to the rescue of stranded passengers. However, the number of passengers continued to remain scarce in these vehicles as people were using their own vehicles or were seen using cabs, metro and auto rickshaws, especially in the city areas, private operators said.

Transport department Principal Secretary Anjum Parvez reiterated the government’s stand that implementation of the sixth pay commission for RTC employees was not possible, as he requested the workers to get back to work and not to get misguided. “It cannot be done, government jobs are different and corporation’s jobs are different, both have different systems to fix the salary,” he said.

Noting that action will be taken in accordance with the law against those indulging in creating nuisance and instigation, Parvez said, “this organisation is yours, per day loss is about Rs 20 crore, so Rs 40 crore in the last two days. Don’t allow for further loss.” He urged the employees to resolve things through discussion and return to work. Responding to a question about invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act, he said, “ESMA is always there, there is no separate provision of invoking ESMA, by using its provision any action can be taken at any point of time.” “Till June we have permission from the labour department for ESMA, if we reach that situation, we will take it,” he said.

Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, honorary president of the Karnataka State Road Transport Employees League which is spearheading the strike, reiterated that implementation of sixth pay commission was their prime demand. He said the indefinite strike will continue in a peaceful manner and it will continue for the third day also, as he cited the “disparity” in the way employees of the various boards and corporations in the state are treated.

He noted that while transport workers were seeking good pay, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) workers are being given Ugadi festival bonus. Pointing out that currently private transport was being used as an alternative for RTC buses, the Principal Secretary said in case the strike continues for long, employees who retired in the last two years will be requested to return to service.

To see that the inter-state movement is not affected because of the strike in view of the Ugadi festival, he said the government has spoken to Principal Secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Pondicherry, Goa, Kerala to deploy more buses from their side. “We have got their cooperation,” he added.

Stating that about 24,000 RTC buses used to operate every day and it was not possible to gather equal number of private transport vehicles, officials said many private buses, mini buses, maxi cabs have been roped in and all kind of support was being given for them to operate. Buses that were surrendered will now be allowed to operate by exempting them from paying tax and vehicles will be allowed to operate for passengers on fixed routes without any permit, officials said.

Alleging that the “inefficient and corrupt” administration of the BJP government in Karnataka was the only reason for this fiasco, Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah urged it to keep ego aside and hold discussions with the employees union to provide amicable solutions, and ensure relief to the passengers.

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