Prolonged protest by transport workers of Tamil Nadu, which entered eighth day today, has put a question mark over the travel plans of Tamilians moving to their hometowns to celebrate the harvest festival of ‘Pongal’ on January 14. People were unable to book tickets as booking counters remained closed at the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus here for the third day. Usually, heavy rush is witnessed during the Pongal season when scores of people working in other parts of the state and elsewhere travel home to celebrate the festival with their families. The state government is also trying to address the situation by employing temporary drivers possessing valid driving licenses to ply the vehicles. The strike call was given by workers affiliated to some transport unions, who have rejected the wage hike proposed by the Tamil Nadu government. While the AIADMK government has offered an increase in the wages by 2.44 times, the unions are demanding 2.57-time hike. The agitation has severely affected commuters across the state. Chief Minister K Palaniswami had yesterday announced that Rs 750 crore would be released this week towards retirement dues of transport workers and urged the agitators to withdraw the stir.
Making a statement in the state assembly, he said the amount would be given before Pongal festival and that it would benefit those who retired up to November 30, 2017. Settlement of pending dues is one of the key demands of the striking workers. The Madras High Court had left it to the conscience of the striking trade unions of state transport corporations to decide as to whether they could ply the buses from today for five days in view of the Pongal festival in the interest of the public. It had asked the counsel appearing for the trade unions to inform their decision to the court today.