April 11, 2021 5:01:23 am
The state transport workers’ strike, which entered its fourth day on Saturday, has crippled the public bus transport system in Karnataka ahead of the festive Ugadi season next week when hundreds of workers travel home for celebrations.
The BJP government in the state and the transporters workers unions have been unrelenting in their positions on the demands for recognising transport workers as government employees and providing them pay parity as prescribed by the sixth pay commission.
The government has also resorted to tough measures to get the workers back to work. It dismissed over 100 trainees participating in the strike, transferred workers and also allegedly held back the wages for March in some cases. Karnataka Chief Secretary P Ravikumar has warned of a “no work, no pay” policy. The government has pressed private transport operators into service and non-Karnataka transport services have increased operations in the state. The state government has also got the Railways to provide more intercity trains.
“Providing wages as per the sixth pay commission is not possible under the present circumstances. When you know we will not do it I do not know why it is being expected. Do not be stubborn,” Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said while asking workers to end the strike. “When people are suffering due to the pandemic, is a strike justified – the workers should ask themselves.”
The state would have to provide a hike of as much as 30 percent in wages to transport workers to fulfil the demand. The state transport department has offered an eight per cent hike in salaries as interim relief.
Farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, who is leading the strike, has demanded a scientific explanation on why the state government cannot fulfil the demands. He was arrested in Belagavi on Saturday for allegedly planning a protest in the region where a Lok Sabha by poll is scheduled next week. “The strike will continue and the government must explain why it cannot increase salaries as promised earlier,” said Chandrashekhar.
Former CMs Siddaramaiah of the Congress and H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) have questioned the government’s handling of the strike.
However, transport minister Laxman Savadi said, “The Opposition parties never came forward to implement the sixth pay commission recommendations for transport workers but are now blaming the government for failing to do so… It seems some Congress leaders have joined hands with Kodihalli Chandrashekhar to fuel the strike. Many workers want to return but are being prevented by union leaders.”
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