Chennai: In a double whammy to the state transport corporation, the cash-starved department might yet again lose a huge chunk of income if the strike continues for one more week.
Special reservation counters scheduled to open on Tuesday were shut owing to the strike, thereby increasing uncertainties over the operation of special buses, this festival season.
This is in addition to the 65 per cent slump recorded by the eight transport corporations on daily income after the strike begun. Transport minister M.R. Vijayabhaskar, announced that more than 27,000 special buses would ply this Pongal and 29 special counters at Koyambedu, Tambaram Sanatorium and Poonamalle will cater to the additional rush.
However, counters equipped with computers and ticket-printing machines, last week wore a deserted look on Tuesday and a few people who had come in anticipation of a ticket, returned in dismay.
“Usually, serpentine queues gather at least 30 minutes prior to the opening of the counter and tickets sell like hot cakes. With just two days for the weekend, it is imperative for the government must sought an alternative for affordable travel,” said a commuter, M. Aswin.
Moreover, the strike has also increased passengers’ concerns over the operation of usual moffusil buses this weekend, for which the tickets have been booked a month ago.
“The staff at CMBT said arrangements would be made for those who already booked tickets. But, going by the number of buses cancelled for the past six days, bus operations during the festival seem very uncertain,” said another commuter at the Koyambedu bus terminus.
A senior department official said more temporary workers would be roped in for the next week to run special buses if the strike continues.
Every year, the corporation rakes in 40-45 per cent extra income during the festival season. Even this Deepavali, it has raised revenue of Rs 8.77 crore by operating nearly 11,000 special buses during Deepavali season. More than 5.52 lakh commuters benefited from the special bus service across the state.
Families of striking staff join protest
On the sixth consecutive day of the statewide transport strike, nearly 60,000 government transport employees, along with their families, staged a dharna in front of 27 divisional offices on Tuesday refusing to budge from their stand of continuing with the indefinite strike. Also, they announced a similar demonstration outside the labour commissioner’s office in the city.
Despite appeals by the government, the unions refused to compromise on wage revision and clearance of dues. The members have also said that they do not want an immediate release of all the dues worth Rs.7,500 crore, but an assurance from the department and a fixed date.
In Chennai, as many as 7,000 people, including women and children gathered at Pallavan Salai. “We have been working for 14-16 hours a day in buses that are not equipped with proper breaks, wipers or seats. Yet, the department refuses to come down and give our own money,” rued one of the workmen.
About 500 people are expected to gather at the labour commissioner’s office tomorrow. “One of the prime reasons behind the issue is the labour commissioner as he is supposed to inform all of us about the wage settlement each time and take our feedback. In case of objections, he must crosscheck whether they are within the preview of the Industrial Dispute Act. Nothing of that sort has been done so far, said K. Natarajan from DMK-affiliated Labour Progressive Front.
Also, sources say if the workers refuse to come to duty any longer, the Essential Services Maintenance Act (Esma) is likely to be imposed.
Acting drivers turn blind eye to PwD
In yet another allegation on the temporary drivers roped in by the state transport corporation to cope up with absenteeism, Persons with Disability (PwD) rue that the “ill-trained” staff turned a blind eye to the provisions for the disables and refused to give them concession passes, thereby forcing them to pay full-ticket fares. “The disabled are already finding it difficult to get into over-crowded buses (due to low operating fleet) and the workforce, without knowing rules are not issuing us passes. Repeated appeals and efforts to explain have gone in vain,” S. Namburajan, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers.
Metro rail comes to rescue
As thousands of bus drivers went on strike as a result of wage disputes, leaving the commuters stranded, Chennai metro rail stepped in to help passengers get to and from work for the past one week.
According to an official, Chennai metro witnessed a total footfall of 31,500 passengers on Monday and 26,200 passengers on Sunday.
Sources said Koyambedu, Nehru Park, Thirumangalam and Alandur witnessed the highest footfall due to lack of suburban rail connectivity....