Chaos prevailed throughout the day as traffic came to a standstill in the city due to a massive protest by around 2,000 contractual employees of PEPSU Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) at the local bus stand on the third day of their strike on Friday.
To press their demands, including regularization of jobs, the employees blocked the roads near bus stand chowk causing complete chaos and a jam like situation in the area.
With passengers already facing problems in commuting due to poor bus service, it was a harried time for local commuters travelling on their personal vehicles due to long traffic jams in the city.
The traffic police had to divert the vehicles coming towards bus stand to control the situation.
As per available information, bus services remained crippled as around 50% of buses remained off the roads paralyzing services at Patiala, Budhlada, Bathinda, Kapurthala and Barnala.
Situation became tense at the site of protest as the agitators protesting under the banner of PRTC Workers Union (Azaad) did not agree to abandon their protest for a long time despite several warnings from police officials and personnel, which were deployed in a large number to maintain law and order situation.
The protesters ended the protest only after officials of district administration along with PRTC management assured them of arranging their meeting with transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar on January 15.
No public protest but strike to continue
However, members of PRTC Workers Union (Azaad) have decided to continue with their complete strike in coming days till the state government assures them of meeting their long pending demands.
Meanwhile, the union members assured that no protest rally would be held outside the bus to avoid causing harassment to the public.
Jasmer Singh, president of the union, said they would only end their strike only if something concrete comes out in their proposed meeting with transport minister on January 15..
"Several meetings were held with state government authorities in the past but we got nothing more than empty assurances and promises", he said.
"The contractual employees will run buses only after fulfillment of their demands", he added.
Meanwhile, newly appointed chairman of PRTC Avtar Singh Brar appealed protestors to rejoin their services to avoid any harassment to passengers.
PRTC facing daily loss of Rs 25 lakh
With contractual employees observing a complete strike for the past three days, PRTC has faced an estimated loss of around Rs 75 lakh.
However, PRTC management claimed that that the estimated loss would be lesser as daily expenditure to run buses has also come down with 50% per cent buses remaining off the roads for the past three days.
"Money spent on purchase of diesel has come down to from the usual Rs 38 lakh to Rs 22 lakh during the days of strike. Besides, we have also saved salaries worth Rs 18 lakh per day to be given to protesters who had boycotted work Since January 8", said Bhupinder Singh Rai, PRTC managing director.
Besides seeking regularisation of their contractual jobs, the striking employees seek an end to "unnecessary" deductions from their salaries, imposition of an eight-hour working achedule for both regular and contractual employees, an inquiry against corrupt general managers presently working at various depots, an immediate end to monopoly of private bus operators and assignment of duties to contractual employees according to seniority list.