Commuters across Tamil Nadu are bracing for tough times ahead as trade unions affiliated to the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation began their indefinite strike on Monday. The strike was called to demand the release of employees’ arrears along with retirement benefits and Provident Fund.
The protest comes after negotiations with the state government failed to yield any result on Sunday. During the talks, Tamil Nadu Transport Minister MR Vijayabhaskar had told union leaders that the government will release Rs 500 crore in September, which the leaders rejected and demanded disbursement of at least Rs 1,000 crore.
Labour Progressive Federation Treasurer K Natarajan held the government responsible for the failure of negotiations. “A total of 22,000 transport corporation vehicles operate in the state. of which only 10% will be plying on the roads from Monday,” Natarajan told The Times of India.
To tackle the commuters’ rush, the Southern Railway will operate special unreserved long-distance train services to Tirunelveli, Tiruvarur and Coimbatore. The Chennai suburban train service and the Mass Rapid Transport System will also help commuters in Chennai. “We are engaging retired employees of the transport corporations as well as new drivers to overcome the crisis,” Vijayabhaskar told The Hindu.
The transport minister added that private operators have been asked to ply more buses. “Efforts are also being made to press into service retired staff,” he said, according to ANI.
The Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association is one such group that will help the government with spare buses. “More than 2,000 spare buses, including omni buses and stage carriages, will operate on behalf of the government from Monday,” the association’s chief A Afzal told The Times of India.
After the second round of talks failed on Sunday, some buses in districts such as Tiruchy, Thanjavur and Udhagamandalam went on strike with immediate effect. “Most of the buses will be off the roads, except the ones run by AIADMK union drivers,” said General Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions A Soundararajan, according to The News Minute. “We make losses of Rs 5 crore per day...But the government does not consider this a service and does not feel responsible for the employees.”
Sunday also saw a few sporadic clashes, according to The Hindu. In Madurai, a passenger was reportedly beaten for questioning why they were stopping another driver from operating a Tiruchendur-bound bus. In Coimbatore district, a bus conductor was taken into custody for pelting stones at a bus.