Hyderabad: The crisis created by the 10 day-long strike — staged by employees of the State Road Transport Corporation in India’s Telangana state — deepened as one more worker ending his life in Hyderabad.
Conductor B. Surinder Goud attempted to hang himself at his home in Hyderabad on Sunday night, and later died at hospital.
Goud is believed to have been depressed by the non-payment of salaries for September and by the Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s announcement that he was dismissing all the striking RTC employees.
His family members rushed him to a nearby hospital where Goud died after giving a dying declaration.
He said he was distressed by the fact that his salary for the last month was not paid leading to default in his repayment of housing loan.
Earlier a bus driver, D. Srinivas Reddy, self-immolated in the Khammam district and died on Sunday.
Two other attempts – one in Khammam and another at Narsampet in Warnagal district were foiled by colleagues. According to the police another driver, Bathini Ravi, poured petrol on his body and set himself afire but others doused the fire. Ravi was admitted to hospital with burns.
Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee of the RTC employees on Monday organised sit-in protests outside bus depots across the state.
Striking employees along with their spouses and children took part in the protests, shouting slogans against the government.
Leaders of the RTC JAC also took their fight to Raj Bhavan and met governor Tamilisai Soundararajan and submitted a memorandum to her.
The delegation led by JAC convenor Ashwaddahama Reddy urged the governor to intervene and end the deadlock.
“If the governor invites we are ready to talk”, Reddy told the media. He urged the employees not to take the extreme step of ending their own lives.
“Suicides are not going to help. Only our determined fight will force the government to bow to our demands,” he said.
In solidarity with the striking employees, activists of various students’ organisations also tried to lay siege the Bus Bhavan, the state headquarter of RTC in Hyderabad. Police rounded up the protestors and took them to the police stations.
Meanwhile a total shut down was observed in Khammam district over the suicide of driver D. Srinivas Reddy. The general strike call by the RTC JAC was supported by all the political parties except the ruling TRS.
There were initial signs of the government rethinking its stance.
Telangana Parliamentary Party leader and party secretary general K. Keshav Rao urged the RTC unions to get ready for talks with the state government to find a solution to all the problems.
In contrast to the chief minister KCR’s refusal to talk to the employees, Keshav Rao said that the government was always in favour of resolving the issues of the RTC employees.
“Except the demand for merger of RTC in the state government, we are ready to discuss all other issues”, he said. Rao expressed pain over the incidents of suicide by the agitators, he urged the unions to come forward for talks before the situation gets out of hand. He pointed out that the government had given 44 per cent increment in salaries and another 16 per cent interim relief to the RTC employees in the past.
The unions were willing to talk but the government had adopted a hardened stand with Chief Minister announcing the sacking of all the 48,000 odd striking employees.
TRS leaders were privately expressing fears that the way the strike was handled was affecting the popularity and the image of Chief Minister and many of them were advising him to soften the stand.
The party was also worried about the strike’s fall out on its prospects in the Huzurnagar assembly by elections due next week.
The situation has isolated the TRS with all the opposition parties extending their support to the RTC employees. All the parties including Congress, BJP, TDP and left have declared their support to the state wide general strike on October 19.