‘False rumours led to prolonged strike’
Sharad Pawar intervenes, says MSRTC strike has seriously affected rural commuters
Stating that commuters across Maharashtra had been gravely hit by the strike called by staffers of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday said that ‘false rumours’ spread about the alleged high-handed attitude of the Maharashtra government towards the agitators had needlessly prolonged the strike.
“The MSRTC employees strike has been dragging for over two months now… It is better not to describe the condition of the passengers in this period. To add to our woes, the State is in the grip of a third wave of the pandemic owing to the Omicron variant. All this is taking a toll on the State’s economy. So, I appeal to the agitating employees to think of the welfare of passengers and resume duties,” said Mr. Pawar, speaking in Mumbai.
In a bid to break the stalemate between the agitators and the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the NCP chief mediated between the government and representatives of 22 labour unions representing the MSRTC employees. A meeting between Mr. Pawar, State Transport Minister Anil Parab and these representatives was held on Monday.
“The representatives too agreed that MSRTC must be run as before and the welfare of commuters was important. Some people have been spreading this misperception that this government [MVA] was unwilling to listen to the demands of the MSRTC staffers. Two months have been wasted as a result of such rumours,” said Mr. Pawar.
The chief demand of the protesters, which continues to be a sticking point in negotiations, remains that they be treated as government employees and the cash-strapped MSRTC be merged with the State government to this end.
Mr. Pawar said that while the matter of merging the MSRTC is now sub-judice and a three-member high-level committee is studying the idea, the State government would take positive decisions in regard to all the employees’ pending grievances and exhorted them to resume duties at the earliest.
The strike, which steadily intensified throughout November last year, has been dragging on for nearly 75 days, with less than 25,000 of the 92,000-odd MSRTC staffers reporting for duty. Most of the 250 MSRTC depots have remained dysfunctional in this period, throwing commute awry while afflicting lakhs of passengers in the State’s rural hinterland.
Despite the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government announcing a pay hike in late November last year to mollify the MSRTC employees, they refused to budge. For a while, the Opposition BJP too jumped in the fray with leaders Gopichand Padalkar and Sadabhau Khot leading the MSRTC staffers before ‘pulling out’ of the strike.
Meanwhile, Mr. Parab urged the MSRTC employees not to hold the public hostage and cause more losses to the MSRTC and themselves. “I have been repeatedly appealing strikers to resume work… I have given them notice at least thrice,” Mr. Parab said.
The Transport Minister claimed that false rumours were being spread by certain parties that those MSRTC staffers resuming their duties would be suspended and told those still on strike not to believe them.