Thousands of commuters across Haryana were inconvenienced for the second successive day on Sunday as Haryana Roadways buses remained off the road and a high-level meeting convened by state transport minister Aftab Ahmad at Karnal failed to end the deadlock.
The roadways employees are protesting the grant of about 3,500 route permits to private operators. Buses did not operate from depots in Chandigarh, Panchkula, Yamunanagar, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Karnal, Panipat, Rohtak, Hisar Sirsa, Rewari and Gurgaon where striking employees held dharnas at different places.
“When people are happy with the state transport buses, why is the government adamant on giving route permits to private operators? We have other issues also, including the government not filling up several vacancies,” Haryana Roadways Workers’ Union (HRWU) president Sarbat Singh Punia said.
After the meeting, the transport minister told mediapersons that the privatisation policy was framed on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court and the state government could not overrule status quo, as directed by the court on the policy.
Ahmad said there was a proposal to grant permission to 3,519 permits to private buses for various routes and the policy had already passed three phases.
Besides the minister, principal secretary (transport) RR Jowel and several officials of the state transport department and the district administration held a closed-door meeting with a 14-member delegation of roadways employees’ unions at PWD rest house, Karnal, that lasted for more than two hours.
“Following a writ petition, the court has directed to maintain a status quo on these licences. The state government has invited applications for the fourth phase. The government has decided not to take any decision on these licences till the court disposes off the case,” he said.
The transport minister said, “The demand to cancel the proposed privatisation of route permits cannot be agreed upon as the matter is sub judice. As the next date of hearting is fixed for September 11, we urged the association to wait for the court’s decision but they remained adamant on their demand.”
The Haryana Roadways Karamchari Talmel Committee, an umbrella organisation of seven different associations of the state transport associations, said they were upset with the “indifferent” attitude and announced a unanimous decision to suspend work indefinitely.
Meanwhile, it was a harrowing day for commuters at Rohtak bus stand, as they jostled to get space in private buses and jeeps that made the most of the situation. The Rohtak bus depot has over 170 buses that daily ply on state routes.
(With PTI inputs)