Updated: March 23, 2022 8:56:36 am
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Maharashtra government to take steps to release ex-gratia in an expedited manner to the next of kin of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees, who had passed away due to Covid-19 infection. The court was told by the employees’ lawyer that despite around 350 applications being submitted to the government seeking ex-gratia, the compensation is yet to be disbursed.
The HC also advised the leaders of MSRTC workers to resume duties till the state government decides on the report submitted by a court-appointed committee, which was constituted to look into the demand of MSRTC workers to be treated as government employees.
Advocate S C Naidu, appearing for the state, assured the HC that once photocopies of the ex-gratia applications are received by the government pleader’s office by Thursday, steps to release the compensation will be expedited.
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“It is your duty (to ensure) that money reaches the families. At least this should be the humanitarian approach (taken) by the government… The workers only want a healing touch. Why can’t you provide that? Why does (not) at least one officer/representative of the government listen to them? Try to go to the root of the problem,” the bench orally told the state lawyer. Nearly 90,000 MSRTC staffers have been on strike since last October seeking the corporation’s merger with the state government.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik was hearing a contempt plea filed in a writ petition moved by MSRTC against the employee trade union and others, seeking direction to all staffers to refrain from participating in strikes or stopping work.
“…Instead of creating a situation where workers are taking steps to die by suicide, why do not you resume duty and join services pending government’s decision? Since the matter is before court, please advice those leading the unions that suicides will not help the cause… If we keep the matter (for hearing) next month and you resume duties till then, will the heavens fall?” the HC questioned the employees’ lawyer.
After advocate Gunaratan Sadavarte, appearing for the employees, told HC that the workers were not on strike but mourning the deaths of their colleagues, the bench said, “What about people of Maharashtra who are deprived of public transport services? If the workers are not on strike, why are they not resuming (work)? …We also want that there ain’t any suicides. Let us wait for the government decision. If it is adverse, workers have remedies…”
Meanwhile, the state government sought an extension to file an affidavit as per the HC’s March 11 order, giving its stand on the demand of MSRTC workers to be treated as government employees. The HC asked the state to file the affidavit by April 1.
The MSRTC assured that it will not take any disciplinary action against the employees till the next date of hearing on April 5.
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