Chandigarh: Passengers across Haryana today faced inconvenience as state roadways employees went on an indefinite strike against the government's move to grant route permits to private bus operators, even as talks between union leaders and government officials failed to end the deadlock.
The Haryana Roadways employees gave a call for indefinite "chakka jaam' (shut down) yesterday after which buses went off road, leaving thousands of commuters stranded across the state for the second day today.
The striking employees are protesting the state's move to grant 3,510 route permits to private bus operators.
In a bid to end the deadlock, talks were held between the striking employees coordination committee and the state government officials led by Transport Minister Aftab Ahmed at Karnal today.
Haryana Roadways Workers Union (HRWU) leaders said they are seeking withdrawal of route permits to private operators across the state, besides other demands.
HRWU President Sarbat Singh Punia said the strike would continue indefinitely as the government was adopting an "adamant attitude."
"The talks have failed because of the government's attitude. The decision to grant permits neither makes economic sense, nor is their step going to generate employment, people are also unhappy with the move, then what is the logic with which they are bent upon going ahead.
"We understand that people are suffering, but we are helpless and government must understand this," Punia said, adding, "we have also raised other issues including government not filling up several vacancies that have been lying vacant since long".
He said Kaithal district was the first to give a go ahead to private operators to start its services on Thursday, following which roadways employees decided to take the buses off the road.
Principal Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner (Transport) R R Jowel said that the government tried its best to end the strike, but striking employees have remained adamant on their demand.
He said to resolve the issue, now a high level meeting will be held at Chandigarh tomorrow, which will be presided over by the Chief Secretary.
Asked if tough measures will be taken against the striking employees, Jowel said, "everything will be decided in tomorrow's meeting".
"There is no reason why the roadways employees need to go on a strike. Some of them had raised objection to fixing of the time-table in Kaithal, which we had withdrawn.
"The matter is sub-judice and listed for September 11 before the (Punjab and Haryana) High Court. The roadways workers should have waited for the court's decision," he said.
Notably, a petition had been filed recently before the Punjab and Haryana, in which the petitioners have alleged that the State Government's transport policy, notified in August last year, gives blanket authority to the government to increase or decrease the number of permits and trips on any route for private operations. The case has been posted for next hearing on September 11.
Jowel maintained that the present fleet of Haryana Roadways is not able to meet the growing rush of commuters on different routes.
"Haryana Roadways has a fleet of nearly 4,000 buses against a demand of 30,000 buses. It is not like we are completely privatising the whole thing. They (striking employees) claim that people don't want the private buses to operate, have they done any survey," he asked.
Meanwhile, the buses did not operate from different depots including Chandigarh, Kaithal, Hisar, Yamunanagar, Panipat, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Sirsa, Rewari, Gurgaon and other places. At different depots across the state, the employees sat on a dharna and raised slogans against the state government.