Hyderabad: A shutdown called by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of State Road Transport Corporation employees on Saturday brought normal life to a grinding halt across Telangana even as the state government started sending feelers that it was ready to hold talks.
Shutdown was also most total as the strike call was supported by all several trade unions, organisations of state government employees, students, women’s organisations, political parties, except ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and even the outlawed CPI Maoist organisation.
JAC convenor Ashwadhama Reddy said that the “bandh” was total and successful. Thanking all the political parties and organisations who supported JAC’s strike call he condemned the arrest of hundreds of people and leaders. “The government was trying to crush peaceful and democratic struggle for justice,” he said.
RTC employees have gone on an indefinite strike demanding the merger of the Corporation in the state government and increasing their wages.
Even as the bus strike entered its third week, the general strike forced the authorities to keep all the buses confined to the RTC depots in all the 31 districts as the RTC employees and workers of opposition parties held sit-in protests outside major bus stations and bus depots. Even the temporarily recruited drivers and conductors also did not attend the duties.
Though the police started detaining leaders of various opposition parties, including those belonging to Congress and the Left parties since last evening and kept some of them under house arrest, the strike was successful.
In the state capital, leaders and workers of the opposition parties held a sit-in protest at the Jubilee Bus Station, Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station and outside all the depots.
Telangana Jana Samiti president Prof Kodandaram was arrested in Secunderabad when he arrived to take part in protest demonstration. TJS also took out a procession to Bus Bhavan, the state headquarter of RTC but it was stopped midway by the police and the participants were taken into custody.
Former minister Ponnala Lakshmaiah, former MP V Hanumantha Rao were among the senior Congress leaders who were kept under house arrest. State TDP President L Ramanna and other party leaders were also taken into custody.
State BJP President K Lakshman and other party leaders were also taken into custody as they took part in the protest demonstration in the city.
In Hyderabad, roads were largely deserted with the entire bus fleet remaining confined to the depots. In the old city, only 11 buses were operating and that too under police protection. Commuters largely depended on the local trains and the Metro rail services.
Osmania University students also took out a bike rally in support of the strike. Opposition party workers blocked the roads at many places in the city and districts obstructing the flow of traffic.
In view of the strike, the Andhra Pradesh RTC cancelled its bus services to Telangana districts as a precautionary measure.
The strike was marred by stray incidents of violence in other places. In Bandalaguda area, a bus was attacked and the temporary conductor was beaten by the assailants. Police arrested two persons in connection with the incident.
In Nizamabad a passenger was injured when some unknown persons pelted stone on a bus which was going to Warangal.
In Karimnagar leftist workers attacked buses with sticks and flattened the tyres to stop authorities from plying them. The police took the protestors into custody.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao held talks with the transport minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar after the state High Court directed the RTC officials to start talks with the JAC. In a blow to the chief minister’s tough stand, a division bench of High Court observed that 50% of the demands of RTC employees were just.
Sources said that the Chief Minister asked the officials to invite JAC for talks and assured that the government was ready to accept demands, which did not involve any financial burden. However no formal announcement was made by the RTC or the government in this regard.