Karnataka bus strike: Talks fail; commuters bear the brunt

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Karnataka Bus strike
Bangalore, Sept 14: With the strike called by the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) hitting commuters hard, the matter does not look like it is going to be resolved soon. With the striking workers firm on their demand, the office-goers and students are bearing the brunt of the strike that has virtually brought public transport to a standstill.

KS Sharma, representative of KSRTC and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation employees, has been quoted as saying, "We have decided to continue the stir as the government has not accepted our demand to increase salary from 10 per cent to 30 per cent." [Click here to see images of the Bangalore bus strike]

With Karnataka Home Minister R Ashok's threat to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to deal with strikes falling flat, the transport employees managed to hold the upper hand. Late night talks on Thursday to resolve the issue was inconclusive. Principal Secretary (Transport) P Ravi Kumar and other officials were accused by Sharma of not doing enough to resolve the conflict and going back on its promise by citing 'unwanted reasons'.

Speaking on behalf of the strike supporters, HV Anantha Subba Rao, spokesperson for the Joint Committee of five Unions representing KSRTC and BMTC workers, said that the government was wavering from their demand to increase salary by 30 per cent by mentioning the drought situation in the state and the hike in diesel prices. Ready to take on the government's hard stand on the strike, Rao said that the employees were ready to face ESMA too.

On the government's attitude over bus strike that has impacted people from all walks of life, Ravi Kumar stated that the employees demand cannot be fulfilled in lieu of the Rs 5 hike in diesel prices that would reflect in the expenditure making it to Rs 264 crore. He also added that the government is not in a position to accede to the demands since it will not be able to increase the tariff hike for transport corporations to meet the increased expenditure, a move that could burden the public further more.

Among the worst hit are the daily commuters in buzzing IT city of Bangalore with as many as 90 per cent buses staying off roads. In spite of the threat by the govt to invoke the ESMA, the striking BMTC and KSRTC workers were in no mood to relent. The govt has made available as many as 2000 private buses and 26,000 maxi cabs to unload the burden of the aam aadmi. They have also requested neighbouring states to ply more inter-state buses.

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