Hyderabad: As the indefinite strike by the employees of Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (RTC) continued for the 17th day, the matter took a new turn with the management of RTC expressing its inability before Telangana High Court to pay the salaries for the last month.

While the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the striking employees decided to further intensify their agitation and declared that the employees will not celebrate Diwali festival later this week as a mark of protest against the intransigent attitude of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, RTC management informed the High Court that they did not have required funds to pay salaries to the employees.

Telangana state advocate general BS Prasad submitted before the division bench headed by Chief Justice Raghendra Singh Chauhan that an amount of Rs2.3 billion was required to pay salaries of the employees but the corporation had only Rs75 million. He also argued that the employees had gone on an illegal strike.

The counsel for the RTC JAC argued that the management was violating the basic rights of the employees by denying salaries for the last month when they had discharged their duties. He alleged that the government was trying to mislead the court and liquidate the RTC by claiming that the corporation was in financial crisis.

The High Court, which had issued orders last week to the state government to pay the salaries, adjourned the further hearing of the case to October 29.

Meanwhile, Monday brought more chaos to the roads as educational institutions were reopened after three weeks of extended vacations. In the absence of the RTC buses most of the people were forced to travel on their private vehicles causing massive traffic jams on Hyderabad roads. The situation was further worsened by the call of the main opposition Congress party to lay a siege to the official residence cum camp office of the chief minister in Begumpet area. As the police force was deployed in large numbers on the road leading to the CM’s residence to prevent Congress workers from reaching the place, it created more hurdles for the traffic. There was an unending traffic snarl on the road from Secunderabad to the Hitech City.

Congress leaders A, Revanth Reddy, MP, and Bhatti Vikramarka, Mohammed Ali Shabbir were among hundreds of Congress workers and leaders detained by the police to foil their protest in support of RTC employees.

Meanwhile, the JAC has announced its new action plan for the next week, which also included employees and their families abstaining from the celebration of Diwali, the biggest Hindu festival.

With the RTC employees not getting salaries for the last month and facing a bleak future, the JAC said that the families of the employees will be on the roads as a mark of protest on Diwali on October 27.

On Monday they staged a sit in outside the bus depots and raised slogans against the government’s adamant attitude. JAC also announced its plans to contact all the public representatives to bring pressure on the government. On October 24 all the women conductors of RTC will go on a daylong hunger strike, which will be followed by the blockades of national highways on the next day. On October 30 an all party public meeting will be held.