In a major U-turn, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Thursday allowed the 48,000-odd state road transport corporation workers to resume their duty on Friday, reported PTI. The employees had called off their 52-day-long strike on Monday evening, but the government had so far maintained that they would not be taken back.

The chief minister chaired a six-hour-long Cabinet meeting during which it was decided that the state government would give the cash-strapped corporation Rs 100 crore and increase bus fares by 20 paise per km that would generate Rs 750 crore annually. The corporation currently has only Rs 13 crore, said Rao.

During the meeting, the Cabinet decided that the government would set up a workers’ welfare council and offer jobs to the kin of the employees who died during the strike period. So far, five employees have ended their lives and a few attempted suicide in different parts of Telangana after the strike began on October 5, reported News18.

“The state government is not interested in depriving anyone of their livelihood as is being alleged by Opposition parties and other vested interests,” said Chief Minister Rao. “We are concerned about the welfare of the RTC workers and their families and will do whatever is possible to help them.”

The RTC employees had started the strike on October 5 with a list of 26 demands, including a merger of the corporation with the state government, job security to bus drivers and conductors and filling up of vacancies. Thousands of drivers, conductors, mechanics and other staff members did not attend duties, and it affected the public transportation system in the state. The corporation then hired temporary drivers and conductors to continue the services.

The chief minister, however, blamed the unions for the prolonged impasse. “The unions have led you astray with false promises and hopes,” said Rao. “They have done this only with an eye on votes for union elections. Please do not believe in them if you want to secure your lives. Let us work together to rebuild the corporation, but without the unions.”

The chief minister said he would apprise the workers about the financial condition of the corporation from time to time. “We will invite five senior employees from each depot, place before them all the facts and figures and explain to them the situation,” he said.

Rao also hit out at Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and three other Bharatiya Janata Party MPs from the state for talking about employees’ welfare when they themselves had voted for a central legislation in Parliament to allow privatisation in public transportation.

TSRTC employee unions’ Joint Action Committee co-convener O Sudha welcomed the government’s decision. “We thank the chief minister for coming to the rescue of the employees who went on strike for 52 days without getting salaries,” she said, according to Telangana Today.