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13 lakh commuters hit by bus workers’ strike in Haryana

Almost 4,000 buses remained off the roads in Haryana on Tuesday, leaving 13 lakh passengers in the lurch as Haryana Roadways workers, including drivers, conductors, mechanics and electricians, observed a one-day strike.

gurgaon Updated: Aug 08, 2018 04:44 IST
Prayag Arora-Desai
Prayag Arora-Desai
Hidustan Times, Gurugram
Haryana Roadways,bus workers’ strike,All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers’ Organisations
The strike, which was called to protest against the Centre’s Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill (2017) and the state government’s attempt to privatise public transport, was supported by at least eight workers’ unions in Haryana.(Yogendra Kumar/HT Photo)

Almost 4,000 buses remained off the roads in Haryana on Tuesday, leaving 13 lakh passengers in the lurch as Haryana Roadways workers, including drivers, conductors, mechanics and electricians, observed a one-day strike, part of a nationwide strike organised by the All India Coordination Committee of Road Transport Workers’ Organisations and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

The strike, which was called to protest against the Centre’s Motor Vehicle Amendment Bill (2017) and the state government’s attempt to privatise public transport, was supported by at least eight workers’ unions in Haryana, including the Sarv Karmachari Sangh and the Haryana Roadways Karmachari Union.

However, 15 buses plied on key routes from Gurugram to New Delhi, Chandigarh and Jaipur on Tuesday, said Rajiv Nagpal, additional general manager of the Gurugram bus stand. Om Bir Sharma, state vice-president of the Sarv Karmachari Sangh, said the Centre’s amendments to the Motor Vehicle Act (1988) would facilitate more privatisation of the state transport.

“This, in turn, will lead to increased fares, which will hurt the common man. It will also lead to unemployment among workers hired by the state,” Dalal said.

The strike left many citizens stranded, especially at the Gurugram bus stand, which caters to 60,000 passengers each day, said Kirpal Singh, city bus stand’s technical manager.

Sangita Kumari, a resident of Jhajjar, had resigned herself to spending the night at the bus stand itself.

“I don’t know how to travel by train. The drivers are saying the buses will only ply tomorrow morning (Wednesday) so I will find a place to sleep here at night,” she said.

Another commuter, Eijaz Malik, said he would try and carpool to Rewari. “It will cost double the money, but I have to be there for work, so I have no choice,” he said.

The strike is particularly significant in Haryana as the Haryana Roadways is the only State Transport Undertaking (STU) in India run exclusively by the government, without any involvement of private players.

Haryana Roadways is facing a fiscal deficit of almost Rs 7,000 crore, according to Nagpal, who is also the general secretary of the Haryana Roadways Engineering Corporation. “This deficit can be fixed only through privatisation,” he said.

In the last State Assembly meeting, the Haryana government had decided to issue 720 permits allowing private contractors to ply buses within the state, and for inter-state travel as well.

The contractors will be paid Rs 32 to Rs 38 per kilometre, and the private players will hire their own drivers.

“The Haryana Roadways will only provide them with conductors; maintenance of the vehicles will not be our responsibility. It will be a huge cost saver for the government,” Nagpal said.

However, instead of looking at privatisation as a way for the STU to end its money woes, employee unions believe that the state government should instead focus on filling up the thousands of vacant posts in Haryana Roadways.

“We have a very high retirement rate, and very few new workers are being enrolled,” said Om Prakash Yadav, state chairman of the Sanyukth Karmachari Sangh. At least 6,000 posts are currently lying vacant in the Haryana Roadways, according to workers with multiple unions.

Jagdeep Lather, deputy general secretary of the Sanyukth Karmachari Sangh, said, “If the Haryana Roadways can fill these vacancies and increase the number of buses to support a higher number of passengers, then profitability will also go up.”

The Haryana Roadways Karamchari Joint Action Committee has called for another statewide strike on September 5 to protest specifically against the introduction of private buses in Haryana. They will also be protesting against termination notices that were sent to 62 drivers in Haryana for participating in Tuesday’s strike.

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 04:44 IST