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In Mumbai, MSRTC Staff Protest For 24th Day; Resolute Amid Suspensions & Terminations

The MSRTC is one of the largest state transport corporations in the country, with a fleet of more than 16,000 buses and around 93,000 employees

Republic


A protest led by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) staff entered its 24th day on Saturday as members of the corporation held a sit-in at Mumbai's Azad Maidan on Saturday. Amid the protests, the state-run transport corporation has started suspending more of its employees and is in the process of hiring candidates who are on the recruitment waiting list.

Services of 238 temporary employees were terminated on Friday while 297 employees were suspended taking the total suspensions to 2,776 of the odd 94,000 staffers. In the meantime, some workers have even attempted to commit suicide with a 29-year-old employee allegedly consuming poison in Maharashtra's Buldhana district on Thursday.

The employees slammed the transport corporation's decision to hire fresh employees for the roles of drivers, conductors, and office staff on a daily payment basis. The MSRTC has decided to make fresh recruitments to control the transport service of the 250 bus depots in the state that are currently not operating. The corporation has issued notices to 2,296 drivers, conductors and other staffers for failing to report to duty despite being called for service.

MSRTC reels under huge financial crisis

The state-owned corporation has been reeling with its worst-ever financial crisis since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic. The corporation had to rely on the government for funds to pay its employees and make other payments. The continuing strike during the Diwali peak period has deteriorated the economic condition.

MSRTC had said last week that despite accumulated losses of Rs 12,000 crore, it paid the salaries for the last 18 months. It also fulfilled other demands such as an increase in the dearness allowance, house rent allowance, and Diwali gifts for the employees, it said. Ordinary commuters are suffering and the MSRTC is losing Rs 15 to 20 crore every day due to the strike, stated MSRTC. All 250 bus depots of the MSRTC have been shut since November 9.

Why are MSRTC employees holding the strike?

MSRTC employees started an indefinite strike from October 28 over their demand for merger of the corporation with the state government and that they be treated as state government employees. They also demanded their salaries be hiked with better job security. The Bombay High Court has rapped the MSRTC employees for their "adamant stand" of not withdrawing their strike despite the Maharashtra government extending full cooperation and setting up a panel to address their demand of merger of the MSRTC with the state government. The MVA govt has issued orders to strike employees to join duty under the threat of loss of pay. The MSRTC has however declared to continue their protest until their demands are fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena on Friday accused the BJP for prolonging the strike despite most demands being met. Claiming that the intervention of the courts had helped in starting discussions to fulfill other demands of the protesting unions, Sena via its mouthpiece Saamana, slammed the violent turn the protests have taken. MSRTC employees are striking, paralysing the state-run bus services, it said.

The MSRTC is one of the largest state transport corporations in the country, with a fleet of more than 16,000 buses and around 93,000 employees, including drivers and conductors. The corporation prior to the COVID outbreak last year had been actively transporting more than 65 lakh passengers on a daily basis.

Image: REPUBLIC

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