Why are the workers of Haryana Roadways on the warpath?
The Haryana Roadways employees went on a two-day strike on Tuesday to protest the state government’s decision to introduce 700 private buses in the state. Even the enforcement of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) by the BJP government of the state could not stop the roadways workers from going on strike. Sit-ins were stage at several depots across the state, including in Rohtak, Sirsa, Hisar, Ambala and Chandigarh, under the banner of Haryana Roadways Karamchari Joint Action Committee. The ESMA prohibits strikes by employees in an essential service.
The immediate reason behind the strike was the decision of the government to launch 700 private buses in the state. Employees see this as a move towards privatisation of the transport department, which is an attempt to favour some chosen few.
While the Manohar Lal Khattar government of Haryana is spreading lies and canards that the employees of Haryana Roadways are going on continuous strike only to get higher salaries while the people get drastically affected with every strike action. The reality on the other hand is that strike is not on any economic demand.
Government is trying to shut down the roadways citing the heavy losses. The reality on the other hand is that whatever loss that roadways is making is due to the fact that ministers and senior officers are buying spare parts of buses at two to three times the market prices, so that they can make their commissions.
The employees of Roadways are on strike in the interests of the people of Haryana and its unemployed Youth.
Departments like transport were started by governments of yesteryears not to make profits, but to provide services to the people. Today the government is trying to sell the roadways to big capitalists in the name of fictitious losses.
Government is going to take 720 buses on very costly contract, which aren’t going to generate employment in the proportions that they can. Government had given 1000 buses to private players in 1990, whose adverse impact is being felt by people even today. If those buses had been run in government fleet then 7000 jobs would have been generated. Similarly, if these 720 buses are run directly by the government then 5000 new jobs can be generated.
It needs to be understood that no existing employee of Roadways will be affected by the private buses. The unemployed youth are the ones who are to be hit the hardest due to loss of job prospects.
The number of conductors are very little among the total employees and hence, a large number of buses remain standing in the depots. No new recruitments have been made by the government in the workshops after 1993. These workshops are being run solely by the apprentices and trainees. Numerous buses break down daily due to the fact that thousands of posts are lying vacant.
The employees are demanding that roadways should buy 14000 new buses, so that 84000 new jobs can be created. They have gone ahead and said that if government doesn’t have money to buy buses then it can take 20% of salaries of all the employees of the roadways for a period of 10 months and buy new buses from this money. This money can be returned to the employees after their retirement.
Its clear that far from the lies of the government, the roadways workers are fighting a valiant battle for the interests of the people of the state and that of its youth, in particular.