It was the end of the road for the TSRTC and the time had come to wind it up, the Telangana CM said.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Thursday not only ruled out the merger of the TSRTC with the government, but also hinted that the time had come to wind up and privatize the RTC to ensure better transport services to the people at cheaper fares.
When the issue of the ongoing RTC strike was brought to his notice during his press meet at TRS Bhavan this evening, the Chief Minister dubbed the strike as illegal, and said that even the Labour Department had expresses the same opinion.
"How could they go on a strike when ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) was in force?" he asked.
He added that the strike was just cheap politics being played by the leaders of the trade unions on the eve of the union elections. He was well-versed with the working of the RTC as he had worked as transport minister in the past, and had in fact ensured that the RTC was a profitable corporation in 1997-98 when he was in charge, he said. But the RTC was running in serious losses now and had turned penniless, and in addition had debt of Rs 5,000 crores, and instead of working to remedy that situation, the union leaders were trying to extinguish whatever little hope there was for the corporation, to attain their personal ambitions, he claimed.
Getting into specifics, the CM said that while the buses hired by the RTC were making a profit of 75 paise per km, the RTC-owned buses were losing Rs 3 per km. The losses were amounting to Rs 1,200 crores annually, but despite that every effort was made to keep the RTC afloat, he claimed - while previous governments had released Rs 700 crore to the corporation, after the TRS came to power as much as Rs 4,250 crore had been released, and of an allocation of Rs 550 crore made in this year's budget, an amount of Rs 425 crore had already been released. Besides, the GHMC was remitting Rs 330 crores annually for the losses in the city services. But the hemorrhaging just wasn't stopping, he said.
The employees were stakeholders of the corporation and it was their bounden duty to protect it and strive to make it prosperous, he said. Instead, they chose to go on strike in this situation.
"No one can save the RTC now. It's not just about ending the strike - it's time for its closure," he said.
The Chief Minister pointed that the Centre had accorded permission to the State governments to ensure proper and cheaper transport services to the people. For this, if necessary, the State governments could go in for private transport services, he said. "Even a Bill was enacted in this regard in Parliament. Therefore, the accusations of the RTC employees and the Opposition parties that the government is not resolving the RTC strike in order to go in for privatization of the corporation is only to mislead the people - privatization is something authorized by the Union government," he said.
In this connection, KCR pointed out that the Digvijaya Singh government in Madhya Pradesh had wound up the RTC in that State, and that in Bihar only a few hundred buses were being operated by the RTC, with the rest being private buses.
"Moreover, show me any of the BJP or Congress-ruled States that merged the RTC with the government," he asked.
KCR also refuted the charge that he had defied even the High Court's directive to hold talks with the striking employees. He said that the employees should have abided by the court order to call off the strike and come for talks. In fact all possible efforts had been made to convince the employees to refrain from any hasty action during the festival season when the RTC could earn some good revenue. But the leaders played with the lives of the innocent employees for their personal political ambitions, and even the Opposition parties threw in their hats to mislead them, he said.
Referring to the assertion of the RTC union leaders that they would not budge an inch till the government conceded the demand of merging the RTC with the government, the Chief Minister made it amply clear that there was no question of a merger as it was not only ridiculous but untenable. There were 57 corporations in the State, and if one corporation were merged it would lead to a chain reaction.
The Chief Minister further pointed out that as many as 2,600 buses had become defunct and could not be used. It would cost Rs 1,000 crores to replace them with new buses but the RTC had no money, he said.
It was thus the end of the road for the TSRTC and the time had come to wind it up, he summed up, adding that based on the powers given by the Centre he could press into service as many as 5,000 to 7,000 private buses to ensure better transport services to the people at affordable fares.
He said that the employees could apply for any other jobs, including for new ones in the government or the corporation.