Over 4,000 Haryana Roadways buses remained off the road today as employees called for a ‘chakka jam’ and struck work for a day to demand withdrawal of permits to private bus operators. The strike, to protest the permits given under the 2016- 17 transport policy, inconvenienced thousands of commuters who depend on Haryana Roadways buses for commuting. “The strike is total and over 4,000 buses, including luxury Volvo buses, are off the road across the state today. We are protesting the government’s policy of granting permits to private operators. The government is planning to privatise the roadways,” Haryana Roadways Workers Union leader Sarbat Singh Punia said. Multiple round of talks have been held between the state government and striking employees’ representatives during the past two months to break the deadlock, but they have failed to yield much.
State Transport Minister Krishan Lal Panwar has called union leaders for a meeting in Chandigarh in the afternoon today. “We have been called for a meeting, but our future course of action will depend on the outcome of these talks. In the past too, the government has made a commitment, but failed to honour it,” Punia said. If today’s talks fail, striking employees may be forced to intensify their protest agitation, he declared. In April this year, the state government and roadways employees unions had reached a consensus to end the strike on the fourth day.
At the time, the government had agreed to scrap the new transport policy of 2016-17. However, it was decided that 844 buses would continue to ply on old routes under the previous transport policy till the new policy was finalised. “Despite assuring us then that the transport policy will be scrapped and a new one framed, no decision has been taken in this regard so far. When they take so many decisions at the meetings of the cabinet, why are they going back on this commitment,” Punia asked.
“We don’t want to inconvenience common people, but people will understand that what we are doing is in everybody’s larger interest,” Punia said. Rather than thinking of privatising the roadways, the government should think of adding more buses and improving services. There was also a shortage of drivers and conductors, the union leader said, adding that 16,000 buses were needed to cater to the 2.5 crore population of Haryana. “There is no demand to privatise roadways from the people of Haryana, so why should the government show haste,” he said.
Echoing him, another union leader, Haryana Roadways Sanyukt Karamchari Sangh President Dalbir Singh Kirmara. said the decision to strike work had been taken after the state government had backed out from its promise of withdrawing private bus operators, who were granted permit as per 2016-17 transport policy. During the strike, the employees staged demonstrations at various depots, including Hisar, Ambala, Kaithal, Jind and Rohtak and raised slogans in support of their demands. At Hisar depot, the employees also cleaned the bus stand premises.