People had a tough time pan Haryana on Wednesday as all 4,000 state roadways buses, including nearly 150 Volvos, remained off roads.
The roadways employees are on a two-day strike against the state government's decision to give permits to many private operators.
Scores of people, worst-hit being those heading to offices and schools, could be seen waiting for private vehicles to ferry them to their destinations for which they had to cough up more money.
Sanjeev Kumar, a Chandigarh-based manager of an event-management agency, told Hindustan Times that his team, which had to come from Delhi to Ambala in a private bus, had to take an autorickshaw from Ambala to Chandigarh for `100 each.
Krishan Kumar, an employee of the state cooperation department who commutes daily from Pipli to Chandigarh, had to pay `150 to a maxi cab driver whereas normally a roadways bus or a maxi cab fare ranges from `50 to `80.
The private maxi cab operators made a killing as the government had apparently failed to make alternative arrangements. Nearly 12 lakh passengers travel by the roadways buses across the state daily.
Transport minister Aftab Ahmed said: "Efforts are being made to arrange for alternatives." He failed to specify the alternatives, though.
He, however, said the government officials and the roadways employees had not met till late evening.
Sarbat Poonia, roadways employees' union leader, said the strike was in total and none of the 18,000 employees reported for work on Wednesday. "We have been urging the government to add 10,000 buses to its fleet, which would not only enrich the department but also generate more than 60,000 jobs in the state. But, the government is adamant on giving permits to private operators," he added.
INLD backs stir, mocks at govt
Lashing out at the ruling Congress government, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leaders supported the roadways workers' demands, which they held were genuine. The party said it was due to the obstinate attitude of the government that common people were being forced to suffer.
INLD state president Ashok Arora said it was evident that the government was determined to giving permits to private bus operators on lucrative routes to favour the selected few.
Scoffing at the announcement that the girl students would be allowed to travel for free, Arora said that the government seemed to be ignorant of the reality that there were hardly any buses in the department due to which the unions were seeking more new buses that would bring profit to the department and convenience to the public.
Chief secy urges them to end strike
Haryana chief secretary PK Chaudhery appealed to the agitating employees to call off their strike as the state government had always been considerate to genuine demands of the employees.
He said the government was always open for discussions to redress any pending grievances of its employees. He urged the employees to desist from causing inconvenience to common people by continuing the strike and asked them to rejoin their duties keeping in view the general interest of people.
Report for work, else face the music, warns Jowel
RR Jowel, principal secretary, transport department, said majority of the roadways employees remained on strike despite negotiations by the representatives of various employees unions at various levels in the government. He warned the employees to report for work, failing which strict disciplinary action would be taken against those not abiding by the directions.
"Despite best efforts of the government, the employees went on strike, which is illegal," he said, adding that efforts were on to make the employees unions' representatives understand that the new government scheme aimed at providing sufficient public transport to people and there would be no adverse effect on the interests of the Haryana roadways employees.
'Roadways staff will only benefit with new scheme'
State transport minister Aftab Ahmed said the interests of the Haryana roadways employees would not be affected in any way if the new scheme was implemented. "The Haryana roadways will continue to have exclusive jurisdiction on all inter-state routes and all long-distance routes within the state," he said.
"Besides, the roadways buses will be allowed to ply on the routes included in the scheme. The private buses will mainly provide service on smaller routes," he said.
He said the roadways would benefit from the implementation of the scheme as a number of its buses would be deployed on better routes to provide efficient services due to rising competition. "The roadways fleet will not be decreased. Rather, more buses will be added to the existing ones gradually," he added.