Normal life hit in Karnataka as transport workers strike; CM doesn’t rule out invoking ESMA

Many passengers in Bengaluru were stranded at major bus terminals, including Majestic, Shantinagar, Shivajinagar, KR Market and Yeshwantpur.

Normal life was disrupted across Karnataka and in Bengaluru on Wednesday due to the strike called by the workers of the Karnataka road transport corporations.

The striking corporation workers brought to a halt bus services, leaving commuters with no other option. The workers of Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC), Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC), and North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC), under the banner of Karnataka State Road Transport Employees League, called for an indefinite strike starting from Wednesday demanding that the government implement a salary system as per the 6th Pay Commission for workers of state transport undertakings.

Many passengers in Bengaluru were stranded at major bus terminals, including Majestic, Shantinagar, Shivajinagar, KR Market and Yeshwantpur. The busiest bus stations, including Majestic, wore a deserted look. Many passengers in the city relied on autorickshaws, cabs, Metro and private buses to make their commute.

The major demands of the protesters are that they be brought under the government’s payroll, which is the 6th Pay Commission, and provided the same privileges and incentives as government employees.

The state government has made alternate arrangements by roping in private transport operators to mitigate the impact of the strike.

The Majestic metro station was teeming with passengers affected by the bus strike. Anticipating a rush, Bengaluru Metro had decided to increase the frequency of Namma Metro services between 7 am and 9 pm on Wednesday.

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Wednesday said that a decision on invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) will be taken depending on the situation in the wake of the strike by transport workers.

Citing public inconvenience, he requested the striking employees to get back to work. Yediyurappa also alleged that ‘selfish motives’ of some people were behind the strike. “We have fulfilled eight of their (workers) nine demands, despite this they are adamant and have stopped buses and are creating trouble for the public. I appeal to them, get back to work, we can talk,” Yediyurappa said.

Speaking to reporters in Belagavi, he said the government has agreed to an 8 per cent increase in salary as an interim relief, but it cannot be implemented immediately as the model code of conduct is in place and a letter has been sent to the Election Commission seeking permission.

“Though we have made alternate arrangements with the help of private operators, their (RTC workers’) decision to go on strike is wrong… they should not give room for us to take strict measures and cooperate,” he added.

On whether the government was considering invoking Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), he said, “We are discussing everything, depending on the situation, we will take appropriate decisions.”

The employees’ league has decided to go ahead with the strike, despite the government warning of strict action and ruling out any negotiations with them. The government had also made it clear that the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission for transport workers was not possible, though it said it had agreed to an 8 per cent increase in salary.

The CM also requested private transport operators not to over-charge passengers, taking advantage of the situation.

Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi, who also handles the Transport department, said “Despite the government stating that it was ready for a pay hike after permission from the Election Commission, some people have intentionally pushed for a strike. Some buses are operating and their numbers will increase in all the four corporations in two days. From tomorrow, about 4,000 private buses, whose operators have surrendered permits, will ply,” he said.

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