Bengaluru, Apr 17: Even as the tussle between the Karnataka government and striking workers of the state road transport corporations (RTC) led to the death of a driver who had reported to work, Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi held the agitators responsible for the unfortunate incident.
Rabeed Rasool Avati, a driver working with the North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) succumbed to his injuries after stones were pelted at the bus he was driving on Friday.
Mr. Avati, 56, was taking the bus on the Vijayapura-Jamkhandi route when unidentified persons pelted stones at the windshield. The broken pieces of glass caused a gash on the driver’s neck. Mr. Avati, who was bleeding heavily, was immediately rushed to Jamkhandi Taluk Hospital, but could not be saved.
"The striking workers said it will be a peaceful protest but have claimed the life of their colleague now. The government will not forgive this. Those on strike are not allowing workers to return to duty and think they can deter the loyal workers through criminal acts," Mr Savadi said in a statement.
The DyCM announced a compensation of R 30 lakh and a job on compassionate grounds to a family member of the deceased. Soon after the announcement, NWKRTC managing director Krishna Bajpai visited the family of the deceased and handed over a cheque for Rs 30 lakh.
The KSRTC State Road Transport Corporation Employee League, the organisation observing the indefinite strike, also condemned the incident. “Our organisation is in no way linked to the incident. We have been asking employees not to resort to any kind of violence,” said R. Chandrashekar, president of the league.
Though the office-bearers of the league have been reiterating that the indefinite strike will continue till the State government meets their demands, the number of employees reporting back to duty has also been gradually increasing by the day.
On Friday, which was the tenth day of the strike, RTCs managed to run more than 5,500 buses, of which Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operated more than 2,500. On Thursday, the corporations operated over 4,000 buses.
On the other hand, the number of incidents of stone pelting on moving buses also increased. Till Friday, 80 buses had been damaged by miscreants. Officials claimed that because of the ongoing strike, RTCs had suffered a revenue loss of Rs 187 crore so far.
On RTCs operating more buses daily, Mr. Chandrashekar said, “The corporations are giving distorted figures. Officials are resorting to various tactics and pressuring the bus crew to report to work. No one is voluntarily reporting back to duty.”
The four RTCs on Friday sacked 254 employees, taking the total number of such workers to 1,054. In addition, 489 employees remain suspended from service.
The murder of employee is expected to bring more edge to the government's stern action starting Saturday, when the polling in the byelections are set to be completed.
Meanwhile, more employees reported to duty on Friday, helping the four RTCs to run more buses instead of depending on private players. By 9 pm, 5,639 buses were operated from the four corporations.