Telangana Transport Stir: Cops Shift Fasting Union Leader to Hospital; All Eyes on HC Verdict Today

Hyderabad: The indefinite strike by transport employees in Telangana entered the 44th day on Sunday even as police foiled the fast of a top union leader.

The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) employee unions’ joint action committee (JAC) convenor E Ashwathama Reddy, who is on a 'hunger strike' since Saturday, was picked up from his house, taken in a police vehicle and admitted to a state-run hospital for treatment, police said.

Stating that he would continue his fast, Ashwathama said Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was trying to suppress their protest with the move and presenting false reports in the court.

“After withdrawal of the merger demand, we urged the CM to hold talks with us instead of misguiding the court and people, but he didn’t do the needful,” he said.

Another union leader Raji Reddy was taken into custody from his house. Striking workers raised slogans against the government over the police action.

In a related development, police thwarted the proposed Maha Deeksha at Indira Park by Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS) in support of TSRTC workers and took several activists, including the organisation's chief, Manda Krishna Madiga, and leaders of different organisations and striking workers, into preventive custody from different places.

Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar on Saturday said permission was denied to MRPS to hold any dharna at Indira Chowk.

Nearly 48,000 employees had boycotted work and begun the strike from October 5on a call by the JAC of TSRTC employees' unions, demanding merger of the TSRTC with the government, pay revision and recruitment to various posts, among others, resulting in buses staying off road, causing inconvenience to commuters. The employees continued the protests on Sunday across the state and held fasts.

The chief minister had earlier said under no circumstances would the corporation be merged with the government and said the stir was illegal as they caused inconvenience to the public.

The state government has made alternative arrangements and engaged the service of temporary drivers and conductors to operate buses. The government is also said to have given permission for privatisation of about 1,300 routes.

On Monday, the high court is likely to deliver a verdict on the impasse, though sources said Rao may move the Supreme Court if the HC order goes against the government’s stand on the issue.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy on Sunday said the strike was a state government issue. However, he said, "The government should give up its stubborn stance and hold talks with the employees."

Meanwhile, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president and Nalgonda MP N Uttam Kumar Reddy, in a press release, condemned the affidavit filed by Principal Secretary (Transport) Sunil Sharma in the High Court on the strike issue wherein he had alleged that the "TSRTC unions have colluded with opposition parties to topple the state government".

The Congress leader further urged the chief justice to take cognisance of the matter and order a CBI or independent probe into the allegations levelled by Sharma.

Accusing KCR, as the Telangana Chief Minister is also referred to as, of taking unilateral decisions, the TPCC chief demanded that the Telangana government convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.

He announced that the Congress would support the 'Sadak Bandh' agitation on November 19 and the party would extend all cooperation till the RTC workers get justice.

Sharma has also reportedly submitted in the court that the “illegal” strike has caused further losses to the ailing corporation. Even if the TSRTC workers now call off the strike voluntarily, the management may not hold talks with them, he added.

(With inputs from PTI)