Hardening his stand, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Thursday ruled out merger of ailing TSRTC with the government as demanded by the striking employees and indicated more buses would be hired to meet the requirements of commuters.
Hitting out at the leaders of the employees unions of RTC over the 20-day old strike, he accused them of throwing the corporation into dire straits by putting forth more demands despite the staff being given a 67 per cent hike in salaries.
Rao stuck to his stand that the strike was "illegal" as the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) was already in force.
With the RTC already incurring heavy losses (Rs 1200 crore per annum), the demands of the striking employees cannot be fulfilled and the corporation cannot continue the way it existed prior to the stir, he told reporters here.
He asserted that the demand of employees' unions to merge RTC with government was impossible to be fulfilled.
Noting that the RTC does not have adequate funds, he said it also lost additional income during the Dussehra festival season due to the agitation.
Slamming the union leaders, he claimed it was "a strike, borne out of cheap union politics... They themselves (leaders of unions) are making RTC sink (by their actions). Nobody in the world can save it... It's a gone case."
Observing that 67 per cent pay hike was given within four years, the Chief Minister sought to know what more demand remained.
"Is this a tamasha? Anybody comes (and says) merge us with government Is it so easy?" he asked.
Rao said there were 57 corporations and what would happen if others were to make a similar demand once RTC was merged with the government.
Extending an olive branch, the Chief Minister said the RTC staff and officers were efficient and he would not find fault with them, adding it would be in their best interest if they came out of the influence of unions.
Those who wish to join duty should approach the concerned authorities.
If necessary, the state government would hire 5,000 to 6,000 additional buses to cater to the travelling public, he said.
The government had earlier said around 10,500 vehicles including 3,000 buses from RTC's fleet and about 2,000 private buses besides vehicles from educational institutions were being operated daily across the state to ensure that commuters were not put to hardship.
Recalling his stint as a Transport Minister in undivided Andhra Pradesh, Rao said he had sympathy for the corporation.
Different employees and workers unions of TSRTC began the indefinite strike from October five across Telangana on a call given by the JAC of TSRTC, demanding merger of the RTC with the government and recruitment to various posts, among others.
Ruling out discussions with the agitating unions, the TRS government had saidthe employees stir was "illegal" as it caused immense inconvenience to public.
The Telangana High Court had on Friday last directed the RTC and the employees to hold parleys and settle all their disputes before October 28.
Following the court directives, the government has decided to examine the demands other than the merger of the Corporation and a committee
The other demands are being studied by a committee of RTC officials at present.
Responding to Rao's statement, employees' union leader Aswathama Reddy said it was not appropriate for the chief minister to speak in a manner, which amounted to 'insulting' the workers.
It was the same workers who supported Rao during the separate Telangana agitation, Reddy said.
Claiming that Rao had then assured merger of RTC with the government, he accused him of going back on his promise.